Many readers of this seemingly now irregular blog may not be aware of the fact that before my days as a teacher and irregular blogger I was a comedian. So I join many of my former comedic colleagues who have spent the last days expressing their sorrow at the passing of John Clarke.
As with the majority of New Zealanders born within the polyester-laced decade of the 1970s, my first introduction to Clarke was partly through his involvement in the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation but mostly through two albums: Fred Dagg’s Greatest Hits and Fred Dagg: Live. My father, in his infinite wisdom, purchased both these albums.
So it turned out, by the time I was eight years old I could recite vast sections of Clarke’s Dagg-based meanderings. As with many eight year olds, much of the humour sailed well over my head. However, I knew intrinsically that this was funny and I would listen over and over and over never tiring of the innate hilarity of the recordings.
One particular favourite was the 1976 handicap for fleas, from Trentham, taken from his live album. I could recite it word for word and would do so into a Tupperware jug to make my high-pitched prepubescent voice sound as much like Reon Murtha as possible. If there were ever a comedy covers evening of some kind, this would be the sketch I would perform.
Even now, due to my lack of 1970s racing knowledge, the jokes based around horses names pass me by, yet I have known, instinctively, for over 40 years, they were funny. There is nothing so quintessentially kiwi as the listening to horse race commentary. Clarke knew this and exploited it easily.
What has attracted me most to Clarke’s writing and performing is his ability to use just words, not a specific set up and gag used by many of us. Quite often it’s not just the words that Clarke utters, but the way that he says it which creates hilarity. Please now enjoy a small sketch entitled: The Front Fell Off.
John Clarke’s lasting impact on me was creating comedy through use of linguistic gymnastics, timing and the sense of the absurd. New Zealand comedy exists because of his genius. Please immerse yourself in his legacy.
Finally, here is last week’s installment from Clarke & Dawe. Wonderful.