Australia’s Funniest New Zealander Dead at 68

The ABC has confirmed that John Clarke – yes, the funny one – passed away over the weekend of natural causes while hiking in the Victorian Grampians. He was 68.

It’s hard to underestimate the size of this loss. As a mentor and friend he was an invaluable part of Australia’s comedy scene, and his weekly work with Bryan Dawe was a fixture on our televisions for thirty years. He was also extremely funny, which can’t be said often enough.

No doubt we’ll be saying it again soon and at length once we’ve gotten our heads around this tragic news.

*edit* The ABC have released an official statement. The magnitude of our loss is only made clearer by the comedians who contributed.

Monday, April 10, 2017 — The ABC is saddened at the loss of John Clarke, whose work as a satirist and performer made him a greatly admired and loved figure on the national stage.

The writer and performer for three decades alongside his on-air partner Bryan Dawe offered insightful and cutting satirical commentary on issues of national importance. From the 1970s when he introduced Australian audiences to his character Fred Dagg from his native New Zealand, to his work on The Gillies Report and The Games, John Clarke was a central figure in Australian comedy and satire.

ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie said the unexpected loss of John Clarke would be felt by everyone at the ABC and by audiences across the country who had come to love his biting sense of humour.

“Australian audiences have relied on John Clarke for always getting to the heart of how many Australians felt about the politics of the day and tearing down the hypocrisy and at times absurdity of elements of our national debate.

“We have lost a giant presence on our screens. Our hearts go to John’s family, his wife Helen and two daughters, Lorin and Lucia.”

Statement from the family of John Clarke

The much loved and respected satirist and writer, John Morrison Clarke (b 1948) has died suddenly of natural causes on Sunday 9 April. Beloved husband of Helen, father of Lorin and Lucia, grandfather of Claudia and Charles and father-in-law of Stewart Thorn.

John died doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends. He is forever in our hearts.

We are aware of what he has meant to so many for so many years, throughout the world but especially in Australia and New Zealand. We are very grateful for all expressions of sympathy and love which John would have greatly appreciated.

John’s family has asked that their privacy be respected at this sad time.

Statement from ABC Head of Comedy Rick Kalowski

“The passing of John Clarke – our greatest ever political satirist – is a tragic loss to his millions of fans and the entire Australian comedy community, many of whom (myself included) were inspired by his brilliance to want to work in comedy. John was shooting for ABC TV on The Ex-PM Season 2 until only this past Friday, and it’s almost impossible to believe he is suddenly gone. The chance to get to know and spend time with John was an honour, and ABC TV Comedy joins so many others in offering John’s family our sincerest sympathies.”

Statement from Charlie Pickering

“One Christmas I was given four copies of John Clarke’s book ‘The Tournament’ by four different people. It’s safe to say they knew me pretty well. John was a familiar part of my life and sense of humour since I was old enough to know what I liked.

It goes without saying that he had a huge influence on me and our show. How can he not? If you are going to have the nerve to make jokes about the news in Australia, you do so knowing that you will never clear the bar set by John Clarke. And his work with Bryan Dawe over decades has been as good as anything put to air anywhere in the world.

Last year Tom Gleeson and I recorded a tribute to Clarke & Dawe simply as a thank you for being our favourite thing on TV. I rang him to ask permission. The conversation got away from itself and we ended up talking about how writing a good comedy script was somewhere between poetry and physics. Whatever that middle ground is, John Clarke deserved the Nobel Prize.

My thoughts are with his family, Bryan and the Australian viewing public for their loss.”

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  • Ontos says:

    Can I swear on this blog? Because this just fucking sucks. The most brilliant satirist this country has ever seen. It just plain sucks. This place just got a whole lot less funny.

  • David M says:

    Hopefully Brian interviews Brian on their partnership this week as a fitting tribute