Monday, 10 April 2017

RIP John Clarke **

On the weekend one of Australia and New Zealand's greatest satirists, John Clarke, died aged 68, while walking in the Grampians with his wife, Helen.  He had two daughters.

Satire is a difficult genre, but one vital, in my view, for the health of any community.

And Clarke's incisive, searing, bone-dry pieces of social and political commentary have long played an important role in exposing things for what they are.

He first gained fame in New Zealand in his persona of Mr Fred Dagg Esq.   His absolute best work, in my view, was the TV show The Games, made in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics.

But it is his weekly political pieces, of which I was privileged to long ago hear some the very first efforts, as a teenager growing up in New Zealand, that have surely had the most impact over the years.

I have to admit that I'm one of that loyal band of fans who waited eagerly each week for his Thursday spot on the ABC, and have done so for many years now, and will miss his work immensely.

Please pray for the repose of his soul.


I'm adding some links to, and short extracts from, the best obituaries as I find them.

Tony Wright (Fairfax):John Clarke: words and ideas were his delight; nature his sustenance
John Clarke seemed to operate at a higher plane than the rest of us.
His eyes twinkled with secret mischief, as if life never stopped showering him with a stream of lunacy that only he could interpret satisfactorily.
He neither drank nor smoked: his vice - better to call it his delight, for there was an attentive elegance about him - was observing.
Watching him surrounded by friends at his dinner table at the terrace house he and his wife Helen shared in Fitzroy was to study an artist at work.
As the guests - a barrister here, a landscape painter there, characters of note and not, friends from the inner city and from the country - stoked themselves on wine and launched themselves with a little of their host's dexterous prodding into increasingly unrestrained conversation, John Clarke, utterly sober, grew intoxicated, the eyes dancing.
He was drinking in voices, words and ideas....
Robyn Williams (ABC): John Clarke was a genius, a friend and a man of science

...The first thing to understand about John Clarke is that he was a genius. He cherished words and used them in such wonderful ways: as a big beery singer; as a sensitive poet; as a sheep shearer in wellies singing to the stock; as a playwright; as a slightly amused politician sitting with Bryan Dawe never missing a beat, never recording a bummer; and as a conversationalist...
 The second thing is that John's comedy and satire was as cutting as a laser beam, but it was never snide or bilious. He was there for the fun and the gentle send up — far more effective than the steel-capped boot.
The third thing to understand is his scholarship. Read his classical works rewritten. They capture the essence of every artist he emulated...
Max Gillies (Guardian): a sardonic dramatist who punctured pomposity
When their going gets particularly sticky, politicians invoke our Values. John Clarke had no need to invoke them – he exemplified them. Those Anzac values of the sardonic viewpoint and the absurdist consciousness, together with a delight in their fanciful expression...
 His art erupted from a molten core of outrage, fed through an intricate analytical array and finally seduced by the delight in its expression.

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