The Authorised Daggography; R4
Astronought, AU$29.95 | Reviewed by Andy Palmer

FRED DAGG on DVD! What more needs to be said? I have vague recollections of Fred on the telly in my younger years, though I’m unsure how many of those memories were created after the fact watching various programmes showing edited Dagg highlights. Or listening to the family copy of his “Greatest Hits” LP thinking it was pretty funny even though I didn’t get all the jokes, and didn’t understand why there were so many Trevors.

On hearing Fred Dagg/John Clarke had released a DVD I knew I had to get my hands on it. It’s pretty funny – pretty bloody funny actually.

Despite the title, it’s not all Fred Dagg. Included is a good lot of Dagg (though I could always use more), and various bits from after Clarke cut his hair and moved to Australia. So along with Country Calendar and clips from Dagg’s TV show we get some of his ‘Farnarkeling’ commentaries and a few Clarke and Dawe interviews.

First up there’s the 2006 documentary The Dagg Sea Scrolls. Largely about the evolution of Fred Dagg, it’s a great watch and includes a few snippets of Dagg which aren’t seen elsewhere on the DVD. Later on there’s a brief ABC interview with John Clarke which concentrates more on his Australian career to give a little balance and update things a bit.

Though clearly a satirist much of Fred Dagg’s work also sits on the uncomfortable boundary between pisstake and homage. The Country Calendar programme is a brilliant example. It is without doubt supremely funny mixing satire and slapstick, with downright stupidity, but there is a hint that Clarke has a lot of respect for the very folk he is ridiculing. When Fred Dagg goes into town I had a bit of a nostalgia trip seeing a Wellington I remember but which is no longer with us.

The items from the Dagg television archive are largely satirical. As such many are about specific mid-1970s events. It may help to know your history from this period, but I think most people will get the jokes despite this.

Clarke can be seen as inspiration for many local ‘comedians’ that followed, from Billy T. James to Havoc and Newsboy. Though these days the political satire seems to have been replaced by in-jokes and funny attempts at distaste/shock which I think is a bit of a shame.

Moving to Australia we get the dated “language of real estate”, still funny but the studio laughter grates somewhat. The farnarkeling commentaries show what a clever bugger Clarke is. Inventing a new sport and it accompanying nomenclature, we get half a dozen items which poke fun at the over-important sporting culture we’ve developed.

Rounding out the content are some Clarke and Dawe interviews; while primarily directed towards Australian politicians, the selected clips only require a vague knowledge of Australian politics to get, and some have a certain resonance this side of the Tasman also. Some are hysterically funny, and Clarke demonstrates his brilliance by hardly changing character to play the various interviewees. Its genius again only highlights the lack of strong political satire on television here.

And if all that weren’t enough there’s a complimentary CD “containing some other top-flight stuff we found in the shed”. Again it covers Clarke’s career and it’s pretty damned funny too.

I’m sure there’s more Dagg out there to be recovered and seen, and I can hardly wait for further installments. In the meantime this is a great introduction to the immense talents of John Clarke. He likes saying about his mate Sam Neill that he’s sure Sam will be a big success one day. One could easily say the same about Clarke.

To the best of my knowledge this package is only available online from either John Clarke’s own site mrjohnclarke.com which contains some video of things not on the DVD, or his shop astronought.com.au. And if you ask really nicely Clarke will even personally sign the DVD for you, or whoever you buy it for.