The man who gave John Clarke his first break in Australian television has praised him, saying his role in the world was essential.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do without John,” Max Gillies told 7.30
Gillies hired Clarke to work on the landmark satirical program, The Gillies Report, after hearing him do a segment with Robyn Williams on The Science Show on ABC Radio National.
“There was something of the ‘man of the people’ about him. People always feel that they owned a piece of John,” he said.
“So I think the sense of loss, already, is just starting to dawn on people — the general sense of despair: ‘what are we going to do now?'”
‘There were no bad weeks’ of Clarke and Dawe
After the Gillies Report, Clarke teamed up with Brian Dawe and for nearly the next 30 years, they produced short gems of perfectly targeted satire.
“He honed his skills into this perfect little art form,” Gillies said.
And in Dawe, Gillies believes Clarke found the perfect collaborator.
“Like old port, as the years went by, they just got better and better at it,” he said.
“There were no bad weeks. It was never dull.”
Outrage with a moral genesis
The targets of Clarke’s comical barbs were most notably politician, but Gillies remembers Clarke also maintained a special rage for bankers.
“I think it was this sense … this sense of outrage, this molten, volcanic turmoil at the outrageousness of the world and of the people who exploit it and their fellow creatures,” he said.
“So it had a moral genesis. But at the same time [he had] this, not a clinical mind, but an analytical one, a philosophical one.
“By the time he’d found a way to express this outrage, it’d been cooled in art, into poetry, into jokes.
“Into the best kind of joke, one that sparked your mind.”
Gillies believes Clarke’s sudden death has deprived the world of a far grander departure, one maybe not in keeping with Clarke’s nature, but certainly more fitting to his standing in both Australia and New Zealand.
“If he’d been allowed his timing to go with some more grace, make a more graceful exit … we’d be expecting a state funeral. And then there’d just be this argument between Australia and New Zealand about where the funeral should be.”
“We’ve been denied that, unfortunately.”
And that the master of the short form should have his life cut short?
“That’s an irony that’s too cruel to contemplate,” Gillies said.