The satirical genius of John Clarke

Alex Mitchell
Latest posts by Alex Mitchell (see all)

New Zealand satirist John Clarke sadly passed away on Sunday aged 68. Based in Australia, and one half of the Clarke & Dawe comedy duo with Bryan Dawe, it is a great loss. The name may not mean much to those outside of Australia/New Zealand but I want to take this time to share the comedic genius of Clarke with you.

The Clarke & Dawe sketches are satire at its best. A simple format which would fill five minutes at the end of a news broadcast. Either as a one on one interview with a political/business figure, a news correspondent talking about the big events or even a mini quiz. There were no impressions, no efforts to make John Clarke look like the character he was satirising – it was Clarke showcasing his incredible creativity. He was famous for his quick wit and his political doublespeak. Clarke was admired by many with those he satirised coming out to pay their respects today.

Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted; “We’ll wait a long time to find another John Clarke. In fact we never will.”

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard also tweeted; “Shocked and saddened that John Clarke, a wise and funny man has left us. Australia will miss him.”

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd summed it up best, he tweeted; “Aust(ralian) political life will never be the same without the satirist genius. His piss-takes of all of us were the best.”

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It was purely by chance that I learnt of John Clarke, a video that came up on YouTube or Facebook, titled “The Front fell off”. An interview seemingly between an Australian Senator and a journalist about an incident involving an oil tanker off the Australian coast. I had no idea whether it was a genuine interview or satire but I thought it was brilliant. Rather than trying to explain the sketch to you, I urge you to watch it.

Clarke & Dawe tackle a range of issues: Political, economical, environmental, sporting and they even covered the Royal wedding of William and Kate. Outside of these one on ones, Clarke wrote and starred in a mockumentary that is one of my favourites to this day. The Games, which first aired in 1998 with a follow up series in 2000, followed the organisers of the Sydney Olympic games. Clarke starred alongside Bryan Dawe and Gina Riley. The technology may age, the politics may be forgotten but the humour is still relevant today. Similar in style to the BBC’s Twenty Twelve Mockumentary, there were claims of plagiarism, with Clarke’s website jokingly stating that he and the other writers of The Games had ran “a charitable institute supplying formats to British television.”

I’m going to end this with a few more of my favourite Clarke & Dawe sketches.

Clarke takes on the European Debt Crisis

Clarke expertly explains Quantitative easing

Clarke answers questions on Australian immigration


Clarke takes on the role of Liberal MP Scott Morrison in the Equal Marriage debate

Clarke on the Royal Wedding

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Clarke explains the Australian Energy market

About Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. I observe - I analyse - I debate