Clark and Dawe — Great Satire From Australia

Clark and DaweJohn Clarke and Bryan Dawe are two, well, Australian comedians. It’s hard to peg them. For one thing, Clarke is actually from New Zealand, but I’m an American and so that’s close enough. Also, they do an awful lot of different work. I suspect that both of them think of themselves as writers more than anything. Also, they are somewhat unevenly matched, with Clarke being a bigger star than Dawe.

That’s probably why they generally haven’t been considered a comedy team. In fact, in as much as they are a comedy team, it is presented on John Clarke’s website, Clarke and Dawe Project.

Clark and Dawe Begin

But back in 1989, the two of them started performing mock interviews for the Australian television program A Current Affair. What’s wonderful about these is that they are very easy to mistake for a real interview. Indeed, on YouTube is a video clip, Australian Idiot Talks About Whale Death FUNNY. The person posting it wrote in the description, “Watch this Australian guy (who I think is running for some kind of elected office) talk about the death of a whale in an interview.” Now that might be a con, but there is no indication on his YouTube channel and it is posted as News & Politics, not Comedy.

And the truth is, it is easy enough to get confused. James sent me the following video, and it took me roughly 10 seconds to figure out that it was not serious. James was apparently looking for information about an oil spill on 21 July 1991 that occurred to the Kirki when it lost its bow. I assume this segment was done within a month of it, at most. Their work has always been topical.

They did interviews like this from 1989 to 1997, and then stopped.

On The 7.30 Report

Some time later (I’m not sure — I assume a few years), Clarke and Dawe returned on a different Australian current affairs program, The 7.30 Report. According to Wikipedia, they did this act pretty much once per week until 2012 (The 7.30 Report became simply 7.30 in 2011).

The following video is from the end of that period. It is clearly making fun of tabloid king Rupert Murdoch. But the story is about Australian model Lara Bingle. And the subtext is that the newspapers are running some kind of vague stories just so they can publish pictures of this young woman — most likely in a bikini.

But there is another side to it, that I relate to. A lot of the time there are big stories and they don’t seem to be about anything that anyone actually cares about.

I probably should explain the Shakespeare jokes there, but you can just look it up. Or just realize that Dawe is right — Polonius is definitely not in Romeo and Juliet. In fact, he isn’t even in much of Hamlet, but he does do a lot of talking while he’s still alive.

Their Very Own Show

In 2013, they got their own show, Clarke and Dawe. As you can see by the link, it still seems to be going. Over the years, they’ve broadened their act. For example, there are a number of segments that are kind of like game shows, European Debt Crisis. (Note: it’s funny, but they miss the biggest point about what what going on — and continues to — in the EU.)

Here is one of the last things they did at the end of last year, “Some Great Xmas Gift Ideas Here.” The part about the Australian superhero is hilarious. But the whole thing ends kind of darkly — brilliantly — but darkly.

You really should check out Clarke and Dawe. They are quite brilliant. I spent well over an hour watching these two-minute bits and never got tired of them.

Intra-Group Fights More Common Than Inter-Group Fights

Fredrik deBoerScott Alexander wrote a piece in the middle of last year that I think is as essential as anything I’ve read in ages about how we argue now. His point is pretty simple: as political segregation increases, with people from dramatically different political camps less and less likely to interact, the really bitter political arguments are intra-group, not inter-group. That is, the battles that are most personal and toxic stop being Democrat-Republican but left-liberal, alt-trad, insurgents-establishment…

Here’s an extension to Alexander I want to make, which I’ll relate to my own experience. As internecine warfare against the neargroup intensifies, the regulation of who is in and who is out becomes more and more important. That is, the more that politics becomes about battling the neargroup instead of the fargroup, the more essential self-identification with a given faction becomes. As the really bitter fights become those between people who are close on the spectrum, the regulation of one’s space on the spectrum becomes even more essential.

So look at my experience. For a long while I was just kind of a fringey voice; perceived by many people as kind of annoying but not in any sense someone to be careful not to be associated with. Now, to the minor degree that I am discussed by progressives (being a low-traffic and low-attention figure generally), it is almost always accompanied by this laborious process of distancing themselves from me even while agreeing with me. Most endorsements of my work, by liberals and some leftists, involve endorsing what I’ve said while performing a dance to show everybody they know I’m Bad. It is the perpetual “I know Freddie’s problematic, but he’s right here” phenomenon. At some point or another I was given the mark of Cain, and I’ve never been clear on when or why…

The attitude that grownups should constantly be in the business of saying “This person is good/bad” instead of discussing specific arguments and ideas is contrary to how democracy is supposed to work. But it’s all people care about…

–Fredrik deBoer
I Know My Own Group by Defining Who’s Not in It