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.
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.
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).
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.
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."
This NZ Music Month collection showcases NZ music television, spun from a playlist of classic documentaries and beloved music shows. From Split Enz to the NZSO, Heavenly Pop Hits to Hip Hop New Zealand, whether you count the beat or roll like this, there’s something here for all ears (and eyes). Plus music writer Chris Bourke gets Ready to Roll with this pop history primer.
For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.
Every now and then here at NZ On Screen, we like to stick our necks out and choose a Top 10. And our collective opinion is that these are the funniest New Zealand television series to date: from bro' Town to Billy T, from Gliding On to the tag team hijinks of 7 Days. Plus 10 runners-up that we couldn't agree on. Read on to find out more.
Billy Taitoko James is a Kiwi entertainment legend. His iconic ‘bro’ giggle was infectious and his gags universally beloved. This collection celebrates his screen legacy, life and inimitable brand of comedy: from the skits (Te News, Turangi Vice), to the show-stealing cameos (The Tainuia Kid), and the stories behind the yellow towel and black singlet.
One October night In 1938 Orson Welles famously fooled radio listeners into believing that the United States was under attack from martians. New Zealand’s War of the Worlds moment arguably came in 1995, when directors Costa Botes and Peter Jackson unleashed moviemaker Colin McKenzie on an audience of unsuspecting patriots. Forgotten Silver joined a sly tradition of on screen Kiwi leg-pulling: from turkeys in gumboots and John Clarke as a rock star, to fence-playing farmer musicians, phallic molluscs and Māori porn stars.