“It was a charmed idea. Clarke made no concessions to costumes or any attempt at impersonation. His targets were mostly hypocrisy and stupidity. If you were a news junkie his ‘subjects’ were immediately recognisable. If you weren’t, it didn’t matter because hypocrisy and stupidity are recognisable anyway, as there is so much of them about. Sometimes he just had fun and revelled in the craziness of the idea,” she said.
“Early on, I had watched a few of John and Bryan’s pieces before the show, but found it worked better if I watched them live for a true reaction. The down side was that I sometimes laughed so much I could not hold it together on air. For me, John and Bryan’s pieces were the anarchic highlight of every week. No other segment could have allowed a current affairs show to admit that parts of what purports to be serious, isn’t.”
John Clarke first teamed with Bryan Dawe after developing the idea from a regular newspaper column for The Times on Sunday.
“I wrote the first few for the paper and a couple of people said to me ‘You should perform that,'” he said.
“Most of these things respond well to good writing, so I was trying to get that right. Once I decided I had a little bit of a handle right I decided to do some on radio and the ABC asked me to do something. I’d done a whole lot of Fred Dagg monologues and I didn’t want to do monologues.
“A producer in Melbourne who had approached me about it said ‘Yes, you can do that, it sounds like a funny idea.’
“So I said ‘I’m going to need another voice, would you read the questions?’ So he did and I said ‘You’re hired because you understand the comedy and you have good speech rhythm.’ And his name was Bryan Dawe.
“And we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Over the years not much has changed with the simplicity of the act, except that audiences now understand the comedy, which affords Clarke and Dawe more creative freedom.
“I think their way of watching it has changed and they are much better at watching it. They don’t miss a single thing. You can do the smallest thing in television now and it will be picked up. I know that when Bryan and I are sitting there, and we’re in a pretty standard interview style, visual grammar shot, waist up, two geezers…. You can do the smallest thing in that shot and the audience gets it. It’s wonderful,” he said.
“But it’s a gorgeous thing that we do. We love doing it every week, we’ve never gotten sick of it. And it’s changed, it’s not the same as it used to be. It’s a bit like what it says in your Passport that you’re a journalist but what you do 25 years later is completely different.
“Every week for 25 years,” he says proudly. “It’s great fun and a good little writing discipline.”
John Clarke and Bryan Dawe can be seen on 7:30 Thursday nights on ABC1.