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John Morrison Clarke

It's not possible! Not!

Utterly impossible you're gone. You'd leave an absolutely unfillable chasm.

It's such a common name. Common as muck. John. And Clarke. There's got to be thousands of them.  

Not my John Clarke. Possible, it is not. 

I met John in the bowels of the Town Hall in 1997 when his thoroughly brilliant daughter Lorin (who has excellent taste) dragged him along to see our unhinged, surrealist Comedy Festival Show, Miss Itchy's Creme de Menthe Breakfast Show. It tickled John's fancy and he stayed in the room until the rest of the audience had filed out to say to us. [paraphrased] "Well that was bloody marvellous. What fun! I've got a little project and I'd love you to be a part of it, if you wouldn't mind?" Linda and I clung to each other on stage, still in our Itchy gear, whispering under our breath, "It's friggen John Clarke!... what's he saying?!" "I don't know! Just nod and smile." So we nodded and we smiled. He smiled back and said, "lovely! I'll call you then." 

He did call. He called and asked us to come around for a cuppa and a chat so he could tell us about this little thing he wanted to do with some friends. It was going to be about behind the scenes of preparation of the Sydney Olympic Games and he thought he might call it, "The Games."


20 years later I'm back in the Melbourne Town Hall. This time, I don't have stage fright but am worried when I start speaking, all that's going to come out of my face holes are harrowing, wretched sobs. 

"My name is Fahey and I'm one of the comedy people in John's life. I'm one half of the surrealist comedy duo, Miss Itchy. The pretty one. Obvs. The sexier one. The other one of us is here in the audience tonight, but don't tell her what I said about the sexy thing. 

John loved funny women. He loved subversive, articulate, brilliant women and he surrounded himself with them. Even managed to raise a couple of fine examples of the species with no more than the odd note from his darling Helen... if you believe John's version. 

He loved Victoria Wood, Gina Riley, Mary Kenneally, Dorothy Parker, Gilda Radner. He was always challenging me to find out more. "Watch this! Look out for that. Here, read this!" My inbox overflowed and I was in heaven.


I met John in this building, exactly 20 years ago. [when I was clearly 10!] He was amused by our comedy festival show and asked us to come and play with him, at his place one damp afternoon to chat about a little thing he wanted to do. That little thing turned out to be "The Games" and we were lucky enough to play in both seasons with him and his other pals. We were Mrs Dundas and her friend Joyce, from rural Australia who knew how to depict the Olympic Rings, Farm Style. In another episode, we were his deranged Aunts on a cocaine bender in Peru, all expenses paid! It was bonkers. 

After that, we were pals. He was my friend, my mentor and at times, my muse. John made you, better. He pushed you further, he understood your unspoken worries and bouyed you when you need it. We shared emails and giggling phone calls and thoroughly racous afternoons in Smith Street cafes, screaming with laughter at each other. The phone would ring and you'd hear 'that' voice. "Hullo? There's been a terrible incident up this end, we need to assemble a think tank and run through the operating manual. Brown beverages will be consumed. Shall we say, 2?" Damn straight we'll say 2!

When I moved to the United States, away from our beloved Fitzroy he started sending me photos. "I was just taking a walk this morning and thought of you." Attached were photographs of the street we lived on. Melbourne alleyways. Photos of fierce storm clouds taken out the window of his office, high above the tram lines in Collingwood. The bar at Pelligrinos. Just one or two a week. For years. Years. He never said, because he didn't need to but these photos were "I know you're far away and you're a bit homesick, so here's a picture of this place to show you it's still all here and it's still alright."  He'd usually just include a small description of the shot and sign off, The Mayor of Fitzroy.  His other emails were hilarious missives full of concocted catastrophes, peppered with real events. Always signed off by someone ridiculous. 

Yrs, Methusala

Hoorah! (All stand).
Well done that boy, that woman, that man and that brother.

All best from all here, Jim 

Yrs, R Fuckit

Best to all there, including the big bloke and Arnie. Fitzroy chapter.

All best, J Mo C

I have hundreds of them. I'll treasure them always. 

The biggest gift he ever gave you was his laugh. When you could make it happen, it would hit you like a bolt of lightening. Right in the chest. It would take your breath away. I did it. I made John Clarke laugh. What I wouldn't give to hear it again, right now. 

Thank you JC. Thank you. 


Here are the two Dorothy Parker poems I read at John's memorial at the Melbourne Town Hall this last Sunday. One remind me of him and one, he'd sent me one damp afternoon when I had nothing else to do. 


I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains;

Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.

But I have no lethal weapon-
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell. 


Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania. 

Reader Comments (2)

When you told me "Clarkie's dead" via chat that morning (followed by a long pause), I spent a good couple of minutes wondering who you meant... one of our friends from America? A distant relative? I mean, it was instantly obvious to me that it wasn't JOHN Clarke - that's just not what you could possibly have meant...

July 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBen

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