John Clarke/Fred Dagg.

The late, great John Clarke/Fred Dagg on the meaning of life. An excerpt therefrom.


“Of course, in the 20th century, we have produced a fair array of theories about what life’s actually about and probably the existentialists take the buttered confection for getting closest to thinking they had it all worked out. They used to hang about in the Paris area, which is in what we used to call Gaul, and talk about how terrible life was and how they didn’t know if they’d really get to the weekend. They reckoned life was a pretty dreadful business and was filled with a thing called ennui.

“Now, ennui is a terrible thing, and seems to have roughly the same effect as terminal boredom. Ennui actually is a French word meaning Henry. And the story goes that once you get a touch of the Henry’s, it’s all downhill and the only way to relive the symptoms is to whip down the harbour and pull a wave over your bonce and call it a day.”

The full piece is here. 

Rest in Peace. Reports through from Sydney this morning he’s died, aged 68.

Clarke was the closest New Zealand has come to a genuine comic genius. An original, one who, mostly, based his humour on the way New Zealanders talk rather than by just adapting a sketch from Monty Python or Stan Freberg or the Frost Report to local conditions.
He first appeared to a wider audience on Country Calendar in the mid-1970s, just as the country’s economic reliance on pastoral products and the Brits was being pulverised.

He was a breath of fresh air, in so many ways: mostly because of how he talked.

It was very buttoned down Kiwi, but with an ornate side to it: “It’s a wee bit horrendous, this towngoing,” a diffident Dagg mutters in a voice over as he is seen parking his Landrover in Wellington’s Harris Street.

He laughed at the way we talked, but it was a laughter without jeers.

Clarke had the true comic’s gift of being able to show what was funny about New Zealanders but in a way which, somehow, celebrated rather than sneered at it.

There was always a sense of heart, a generosity of spirit, as he laughed – or rather, as he showed us what was funny.




One of the great things happening in New Zealand right now….

One of the great things happening in New Zealand right now is the deepening of our history: new works which go beyond the ‘good guys/bad guys’ approach of a lot of earlier works. Life is more complex than that.


David Lange has been in the news, and for most of us – except for the weeping John Campbell on the teev last night – it has been a useful reminder.

Here we were, all preparing ourselves for the outpouring of sentimental grief when the bugger finally dies, and then he puts out a book full of spiteful comments about other people and most of us – again, excepting the lachymose Campbells of this world – are thinking ‘Oh that’s right. You’re a ****.’

So if he sucks the big kumara anytime soon the wailing of compulsory national grief might be a bit more muted than it would otherwise have been. For that, anyway, much thanks, David.

Thanks also for reminding us what some of your colleagues were like.

And, BTW, thanks also for heading up one of our best governments – between July 1984 and January 1988. that government represented – I don’t say caused – a colossal change in NZ. Not all of that change was for the better, but most of it was. This was a much more freedom-hating, insular and small-minded place pre-1984. Despite those on both sides of the political spectrum who have tried to move us back to that, the changes your government wrought have been mostly irreversible.

No thanks though for then heading one of our worst governments, from January 1988 until you quit in August 1989. And one of the major reasons it was so bad was because of your failure of leadership. You were prepared to stop Douglas but you had nothing to replace his policies with. You called for a cuppa tea but it was the longest, most acrimonious and most costly tea break in history.