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Hero image for John Clarke: A bit of a Dagg...

John Clarke: A bit of a Dagg...

Interview – 2011

John Clarke was one of New Zealand’s best-loved comic performers. His 1970s farming character Fred Dagg became an icon of Kiwi comedy. Clarke worked as a comedian, actor, writer and director. His satirical television series The Games was an Australian Film Institute award-winner. Although based in Australia since 1977, he lent his unmistakeable comic voice to Kiwi TV comedies bro’Town and Radiradirah.

In a departure from the usual ScreenTalk format, this extended audio interview was produced and recorded by Andrew Johnstone and Richard Swainson, with the assistance of Hamilton Community Radio and The Film School.

In this wide-ranging ScreenTalk, Clarke talks about:

  • Comedy
  • His parents
  • Early influences, from Peter Cook to racehorse commentator Peter Kelly 
  • His love of cartoonists David Low and Nicholas Garland
  • Realising there was a hunger for Kiwi comedy, while on stage in the early 70s  
  • A short gig as film assessor at the NZ Broadcasting Corporation
  • Learning from Australian comedian Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage) during a stint in England
  • Wanting to make comedy that reflected his own culture
  • The birth of the Fred Dagg character
  • Joining the team on pioneering Kiwi film Wild Man
  • His first time directing other actors for the screen, on Australian TV drama Man and Boy
  • Writing the original script for Billy Connolly movie The Man who Sued God 
  • His ambitions with hit Olympics satire The Games
  • Working with his friend Sam Neill on cult Aussie comedy Death in Brunswick
  • Making comedy with his adaptations of novels Stiff and The Brush-Off
  • Moving from monologues to working with talented people like Bryan Dawe 
  • Playing the villain in bowling comedy Crackerjack
  • His favourite projects worked on to date
  • The success of album Fred Dagg's Greatest Hits
This video was first uploaded on 29 March 2011, and is available under this Creative Commons licence. This licence is limited to use of ScreenTalk interview footage only and does not apply to any video content and photographs from films, television, music videos, web series and commercials used in the interview.
Produced and recorded by Andrew Johnstone and Richard Swainson with the assistance of Hamilton Community Radio and The Film School
I needed to find a way in which being me would be a living.
– John Clarke, 40 minutes into this interview