He made me laugh, and now he's gone, a little sad.

John Clarke - aka Fred Dagg - passed away suddenly on Sunday out hiking in a Victoria national park in Australia.

Clarke was a bone fide comedy legend who outgrew New Zealand's fish bowl early in his career and crossed the ditch to Australia.

The place suited him - his wit was drier than an Aussie desert.


Before he left, his 1976 Handicap for Fleas at Trentham and of course The Gumboot Song were part of comedic folklore.

Clarke may not have written the gumboots ode, but he made it his - and our - own.

And thanks to Clarke, I know that Heliotrope is not only a thoroughbred flea (Heliotrope Adios) but a colour.

And as for Daggy Boy (by Jumping One Night out of Trev's Sock), well, surely, the finest thoroughbred parasite this country has ever produced.

In Australia, Clarke gravitated toward lampooning politicians and bureaucracy.

YouTube is a gold mine of Clarke gems - a personal favourite is an excerpt from The Games - a mockumentary that sent up the organisation of the Sydney Olympic Games.

If you can find it, Clarke asking "Mr Wilson" about the wrong length of the 100m track and why "in the construction of a 100m track, you would want to depart too radically from the constraints laid down for us by the conventional calibration of distance" is special.

Clarke's departure from New Zealand left a void that was never quite filled in New Zealand satire.


McPhail and Gadsby poked the borax at politics in the 80s but since then, we have desperately needed someone with Clarke's observational humour targeting the absurdity of our politicians, their policies and their personalities.

Had Clarke come back as a bigger fish after his Oz experience, he would have swum in comedic waters rich with material.

But it's harder to lampoon a country you don't live in, and it wasn't to be.

Still, for someone who lived more than half his life in Australia, he was a bloody fine New Zealander.