Last year, there was a lot of media attention on the deaths of some major names in the celebrity sphere. With the passing of people like David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher, there was large scale mourning as people talked about the influence these stars had on their lives.
I was sad to hear of each of these deaths, and I appreciate the impact they had on many people’s lives, but to some degree I watched this from afar. While I recognise the talent of these people, I was not such a massive fan that it threw my world into a tailspin.
Now, 2017 is barely a few months old and I have just heard of a “celebrity” death that really has shaken me – I’m writing this post quite raw as I’ve only just heard the news of the passing of the great John Clarke.
To call John Clarke a celebrity is possibly pushing things a bit – which is why I used inverted commas above. I suspect most readers in the US and probably the UK would not recognise the name. To say he is the greatest satirist Australia has produced would only be incorrect because of course he was originally from New Zealand – but we Aussies have pretty much claimed him for a long time.
I first saw his work during the Gillies Report back in the mid ’80s. I’ll never forget his dryer than dry delivery of humorous news items, and in particular his reports on the phenomenal sport of Farnarkeling. When I went to live in the US in the early ’90s, an essential item I took with me was a recording of some of the humorous interviews he conducted with Brian Dawe. And I always looked forward to his trivia quizzes every month or so in The Age.
I learnt a heap about satire from John Clarke. About how it doesn’t have to be cruel to be effective. About how the main thing is to look underneath the personalities with all their bluster to identify the real issues underneath (when John Clarke satirised politicians, he made no attempt to imitate them – so rather than focus on how good a mimic he was, you listened to the words he was saying instead). And one thing I always loved about his work was that no matter what he was saying or doing, there was always an irrepressible twinkle in his eye. You knew he was having fun. I always try to ensure I have fun with the things I’m doing too.
My style of satire is not like John Clarke’s. My preferred method is to craft out a story and try to sneakily insert the satire into it. But whatever I do, I wouldn’t be able to do it without the influence of John Clarke’s unique style of humour.
My wishes go out to his family – he will be missed.
And to any Yanks or Brits out there that want to learn more – do yourself a favour and google John Clarke – or Farnarkeling.
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