John Morrison Clarke (born 29 July 1948) is a New Zealand-born Australian comedian, writer, and satirist. He was born inPalmerston North, New Zealand, and has lived in Australia since the late 1970s. He is a regular actor and writer on Australian TV.
He first became known during the mid-to-late 1970s for portraying a laconic farmer called Fred Dagg on stage, film and television. Gumboot and singlet-clad, Dagg had seven sons, all named 'Trev'. Clarke also recorded a series of records and cassettes, and published several books as Dagg. Thirty years after its release, the first Fred Dagg album (modestly titled Fred Dagg's Greatest Hits (1976)) remains one of New Zealand's biggest selling records. Some of his earliest appearances as Fred Dagg in the Australian media were on the ABC's The Science Show and Dagg later made regular radio appearances on 2JJ until the station moved to FM and was renamed 2JJJ in 1980. An LP of some 2JJ sketches, The Fred Dagg Tapes was released in 1979.
In 1984 Clarke was part of the Australian ABCTV series The Gillies Report, starring Max Gillies. Among the highlights of this satire were Clarke's straight-faced reports on the fictional sport of 'Farnarkeling' and the exploits of Australia's fictional world champion in it, Dave Sorenson.
Clarke also became known for his screenwriting when, in 1982, he was nominated for an AFI award for co-writing the acclaimed Paul Cox film Lonely Hearts. He also co-wrote the mini-series Anzacs and provided the voice of Wal Footrot in the feature-length animated film, Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale (1986), based on the comic strips by Murray Ball. Towards the end of the 1980s, he featured in a number of other films, and began to be known for his political satire.
In 1989, along with collaborator Bryan Dawe, Clarke introduced weekly mock interviews to television, on the Nine Network current affairs programme A Current Affair. Clarke would take on the persona of a politician or prominent figure, though never attempting to imitate the voice of the subject as in traditional mimicry, and be interviewed by Dawe. The pair continued to do mock interviews for the programme until 1997, satirising a range of figures including Paul Keating, Alexander Downer, George Bush, and Alan Bond. After a break, the pair reappeared on ABC TV's The 7.30 Report in a similar format.
The interviews have been compiled into books and CD releases. "Great Interviews of the 20th Century" won the ARIA Award for 'Best Australian Comedy Album' in 1991. "The Annual Report" won the same award in 1992 and "Secret Men's Business" was nominated in 1997.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Clarke featured in several films, Never Say Die, alongside New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison, Death in Brunswick, alongside another New Zealand Actor Sam Neill and Blood Oath (released in some countries as Prisoners of the Sun). Over the next five years, he continued to write and act in a handful of films, on top of his continuing series of mock interviews.
Clarke had a commercial success in 1998, when he co-wrote (with Ross Stevenson) and starred (with Dawe and Gina Riley) in The Games, a mockumentary about the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). The series, in which he played a character with the same name as his own, ran for two seasons, and featured guest appearances from a variety of figures, including singer John Farnham. An early high point was when a number of foreign reporters believed it was genuine and reported plot lines as news stories.
In 2001, Billy Connolly starred in a film based on Clarke's screenplay The Man Who Sued God (re-written by Don Watson). In 2002 Clarke appeared in a villainous role in the movieCrackerjack and as a comedy club owner in the award-winning telemovie Roy Hollsdotter Live. After a quiet period, he re-emerged in 2004, adapting Melbourne author Shane Maloney's Murray Whelan series for film. This resulted in two films, Stiff and The Brush-Off, both starring David Wenham and Mick Molloy. Clarke directed Stiff himself and made a cameo appearance in The Brush-Off, which was directed by his old friend Sam Neill.
Clarke is the author of several books, notably two mock compilations of Australian poetry, and The Tournament, a book describing a fictional tennis tournament involving many philosophical and literary figures of the twentieth century.
Clarke was inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame in 2008. The Logie was presented to him by long-time collaborator and friend Bryan Dawe.