Kim Hill interviews comedy legend John Clarke at his home in Melbourne. In this excerpt, Clarke talks about how easily humour travels and how Kiwis can be funny, and looks back at the birth of his iconic Fred Dagg character in the early 70s, with his black singlet, a hat given to Clarke by his sister, and some torn-off trousers from state television's wardrobe department. Clarke talks about New Zealand being far from alone in claiming to have a laconic, understated style of humour, and how he thinks the country is seen overseas.
This excerpt from the United Travel-sponsored travel show features presenter Clarke Gayford showing viewers around the Blanket Bay luxury lodge, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown. Gayford is joined by champion snowboarder (and Dancing with the Stars dancer) Hayley Holt for some heli-snowboarding, followed by an après ski spa and beer. For snow fans, the item features spectacular backcountry boarding runs. United Travel Getaway screened on Prime Television in 2007.
The airport interview with the visiting overseas celebrity was very much a staple of 70s New Zealand TV — but in this encounter the location looks suspiciously like NZBC's Avalon studios, and rock star Hiram W Violent bears more than a passing resemblance to John Clarke (of Fred Dagg fame). The wardrobe department has had a thorough ransacking and the question of Hiram's ability with the guitar remains thankfully moot. The interviewer is original Grunt Machine presenter and actor/musician Andy Anderson (who later starred in Gloss and The Sullivans).
Each episode of Extraordinary Kiwis shines a spotlight on a particular Kiwi and the activities that make them extraordinary. In this third season pilot, Clarke Gayford spends some time in Antarctica with scientist Victoria Metcalf, who investigates how fish survive in such extreme cold and their use as bellwethers for climate change. The "very Auckland" Gayford learns to fish amongst the seals. Dealing with hooks and bait in -20°C conditions is challenging for the self-described "sook in the cold", but Gayford proves pretty handy with a rod.
After graduating from New Zealand Broadcasting School, Clarke Gayford created student show Cow TV. Presenting gigs followed for music channel C4, United Travel Getaway, and Extraordinary Kiwis. In 2016 he swapped his microphone for a speargun to launch Fish of the Day, a Choice TV show about his lifelong passion. In 2017 Gayford became NZ’s 'first bloke', when partner Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister.
Laurie Clarke began his career in 1983, as an editor for Australia’s ABC. Back home for the birth of TV3, he later spent nine years directing and producing for news show 20/20. Clarke is currently a company director at Top Shelf Productions; his list of credits includes Target, What's Really in Our Food, Making New Zealand, Heritage Rescue, and long-running media commentary show Media Take.
One of the funniest people on either side of the Tasman, John Clarke’s brand of droll wit (always delivered with a wickedly understated authenticity) defined the high-water mark of Kiwi and Australian comedy for 30 years. Spawned in the early 70s, his gumboot-clad character Fred Dagg marked a defining moment in the development of New Zealand comedy. Clarke passed away on 9 April 2017.
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 our 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.
Jaquie Brown's first TV role was as co-host of youth culture show Space with Dominic Bowden in 2000, before becoming one of the two main anchors on burgeoning music channel C4. From there, Brown moved into 'grown up' TV with John Campbell and Carol Hirschfeld, in the series A Queen’s Tour, before becoming a reporter on the current affairs show Campbell Live. Brown then stepped into the challenging realm of programme-making, forming her own production company with Gerard Johnstone. One season later and The Jaquie Brown Diaries was a hit with critics and viewers, and was named Best Comedy at the 2009 Qantas Film and Television Awards.
This collection celebrates Kiwi comedy on TV: the caricatures, piss-takes, and sitcoms that have cracked us up, and pulled the wool over our eyes for over five decades. From turkeys in gumboots and Fred Dagg, to Billy T, bro'Town and Jaquie Brown. As Diana Wichtel reflects, watching the evolution of native telly laughs is, "a rich and ridiculous, if often painful, pleasure."