John Clarke, best known for his deadpan political satire, has died suddenly at the age of 68.
In a statement issued by his family, Clarke had died while bush walking in Victoria: “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.”
Born in New Zealand, Clarke first came to Australia in the 1970s after a falling out with the New Zealand national broadcaster. His introduction to Australian audiences came in the form of caricature Fred Dagg, regularly featured on ABC radio and in a successful advertising campaign for Qantas.
He worked on the ABC comedy series The Gillies Report and was a writer and co-creator of the ABC drama series The Fast Lane.
In 1989 Clarke and Bryan Dawe began their weekly political satire on A Current Affair, with Dawe playing the journalist interviewing Clarke as a political or prominent figure. The irony was that Clarke would just appear as himself, with no attempt to impersonate or resemble the figure being parodied. The segment later moved across to The 7.30 Report on ABC before becoming a stand alone program as a lead-in to the 7pm ABC News on Thursday nights.
He also co-wrote and starred in the mockumentary series The Games, a parody of the organisation of the upcoming Sydney Olympic Games.
Other TV credits have included A Matter Of Convenience, Stark, Frontline, BackBerner, Welcher & Welcher, Kath And Kim and The Ex-PM.
Clarke was also a writer for the 1985 mini-series Anzacs and wrote and appeared in a number of feature films.
In 2008, he was inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards Hall Of Fame.
Many high profile political figures and comedy stars have taken to social media to pay tribute to Clarke, and ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie issued a statement in tribute: “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.”