John Clarke, the beloved New Zealand-born satirist and comedian, died Sunday, April 9, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 68.
The Canberra (Australia) Times reported that Clarke died of natural causes while hiking in the Grampians National Park in Victoria.
Clarke was a frequent actor and comedy writer on Australian television.
Born July 29, 1948, in Palmerston, New Zealand, he was known best for playing the character Fred Dagg on film, stage, and television. The farmer had seven sons, all named Trev. His 1976 debut album, “Fred Dagg’s Greatest Hits,” has been a perennial best-seller in New Zealand for more than three decades.
In 1984, Clarke played a sports reporter character on “The Gillies Report” on Australia’s ABC channel starring the actor Max Gillies. Clarke’s satire involved the phony competition called farnarkeling, and mock interviews with the farnarkeling champion Dave Sorenson.
Clarke was well-known to film buffs Down Under. His credits during the 1980s and early ’90s included “Never Say Die,” “Death in Brunswick,” and “Blood Oath,” also known as “Prisoners of the Sun.”
In 1989, he worked with fellow satirist Bryan Dawe to conduct mock interviews. In the short interviews that aired on “A Current Affair” and later “The 7.30 Report,” Dawe played the interviewer while Clarke played the celebrity or politician. The send-ups included former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and the high-profile Australian business owner Alan Bond.
The satiric interviews were collected in books and recordings. In 1991, “Great Interviews of the 20th Century” won the Australian Recording Industry Association’s award for the best Australian comedy album.
A variety of Australians and New Zealanders took to social media to share their tributes to Clarke.
Actor Stephen Fry tweeted that Clarke “was a wonder and will be sorely missed.”
Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davis tweeted that Clarke was “the man who saw through everything, but needed the natural world for sustenance Beautiful @tonowright.”
Amy Gillies Foundation chairman Mark Textor said the remarkable thing about Clarke’s political satire “was that it was so very, very cutting but contained no bitterness.”