By Marcus Honesta.
I decided that before I penned my tribute to the late and great John Clarke I would let a little time pass. I needed to allow some of the emotions I felt dissipate so that a calmer, less shocked and less outraged mind could write this article. I was wrong. None of my feelings retreated. I did discover however, that I had developed an even greater respect for Clarke’s genius and his unique ability to distil the absurdities of life into meaningful bite-size pieces of entertainment.
I first met John when he was in the process of creating what was to become one of his greatest works, a project called, “The Games”. It was an Australian mocumentary television series about the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The series was originally broadcast on the ABC and had two seasons of 13 episodes each. The first aired in 1998 and the second in 2000. The writers were John Clarke and Ross Stevenson. The series centered on the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) and satirised the corruption and cronyism in the Olympic Movement, the bureaucratic ineptness of the New South Wales Public Service, and the unethical behavior within politics and the media. So absurdly accurate was the scripting, that the Australian Federal police raided the offices of SOGOC on a regular basis endeavoring to find out who was leaking material to Clarke and Stevenson. Of course no one was. They just had a genius ability to understand how stupidity and bureaucracy go hand in hand.
In this magazine we mostly write about advertising. This is Clarke’s view on that profession.
Yeer G’day. I must say that we down at the bureau had a very enjoyable time researching this one. On the first day, we kicked off with a light lunch that lasted about five hours. We then took the idea over to our creative department who recommended that we get in touch with some of the people over there in concepts. Concepts went off and had not a bad lunch on it and came back with a storyboard that we tested in an open-ended, one-to-one marketing sample situation. Actually, we did this in Bangkok (we were going up there anyway for lunch so it wasn’t too far and away).
Went to Paris for a couple of days to throw a few ideas around and get some different colored felt pens, and then onto Rio for lunch.
On the way back I ran into a bloke who used to AE with O&M before we both went across to Burnetts, when Pattersons had burgled the MDA account from Hertz Walpole. He’s now Creative Director with Silvergold Finkelstein Gefiltefish and Baumbaum, and works out of New York, so we went over to his office for a short snort before lunch. He went over the concept with a fine tooth- comb, right down to the media schedules and the market mixes.
And ultimately he recommended I conduct this lecture on the ‘Clive James Show’ and the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ and ‘Playschool’ coupled with an in-store promotion, pop-out full-color relief poster point-of-sale material and a radio and television saturation campaign featuring Michael Jordon doing an old Beatle’s number with the critical message in the gaps between the choruses. It’s a nice idea. I like it a lot and after lunch I’ll decide what to do about it.
Goodbye John, you will be sorely missed. Who will now provide such profound and accurate insights into the fallibility, absurdity and truisms of the human condition? If there’s one thing society is a little short on these days it’s genius.