Twelve Questions

Sarah Daniell poses 12 questions to well-known faces

John Clarke on the Olympics - 'Freakishly gifted' in front of the TV

John Clarke. Photo / supplied
John Clarke. Photo / supplied

In 1998, Kiwi comedian and writer John Clarke created The Games, a spoof of the Sydney Games. It was spookily prescient. The boy from Palmerston North now lives in Melbourne, where he is working on a screenplay.

1. Which Olympic discipline would you be best qualified to enter?

Expert commentator. I am almost freakishly gifted in front of my own television set. I've done the work, I've prepared, I'm focused, quietly confident and very relaxed. I've tapered beautifully for these Games and am in the form of my life.

2. Which discipline is the most absurd and should be abolished?

There's a thing called rhythmic gymnastics, which involves young women leaping through hoops and waving ribbons while rolling on a big mat in attractively coloured shrinkwrap. A friend of mine refers to these as "the cat toy events" and while they'd go well at the Eurovision Song Contest, they're far too sensible for the Olympics.

3. Did these Olympics make you feel nostalgic for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and long for a decent controversy - a shortened 100m track, an empty pool brought on by a water crisis?

The Olympics always provide high-quality Lewis Carroll moments. A particular triumph this year has been the seating, which has been simultaneously sold out and empty. Some seating was made available to the public but most of the prime seating had already been allocated to "the Olympic Family". Sadly the Olympic family haven't been at all well and most of the best seating has remained empty.

4. For what would you throw the remote at the television?

The news. I'm a great admirer of escapist fiction, publicity handouts and celebrity drivel in a general sense but why call it The News. Perhaps it's the title that doesn't work.

5. What television show did you love most as a child and why?

We didn't have television until I was in my teens. Not Only But Also with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore was a considerable delight. It was all shot on film and there were no video recorders or hard drives in those days but my friends and I would remember it and could repeat the entire broadcast the following day.

6. What phrase do you over-use?

I'll have a beer, thanks.

7. What have creative endeavours taught you about yourself?

Much has been written about the relationship between the creative impulse and the self. I wish I'd read some of it.

8. What quote from what famous person resonates most for you?

"What do we do now, now that we are happy?' Samuel Beckett.

9. How would you describe your first kiss?

A great kindness from the other party involved.

10. What was the first book you first fell in love with?

Puckoon, by Spike Milligan. I grew up listening to The Goon Show and the revelation that Spike was not just a funny performer but had written the comedy as well was like discovering that athletes train. Spike's writing is wonderful and I read Puckoon a lot in my late teens.

11. What is the best thing about life right now?

I went to the zoo with a 10-month-old child the other day. If there's better fun than that I'd like to know what it is. She saw a giraffe for the first time. She watched meerkats who were 60cm away. A lion roared.

12. What television show would you like to cameo in?

I have no desire to appear in other people's shows. It's embarrassing enough appearing in mine.

- NZ Herald

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