John Clarke, beloved Down Under for his satire, dies at 68

Actor and comedian John Clarke.

In this undated photo provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, John Clarke, a comedian and political satirist beloved in Australia and New Zealand, poses for a photo.

Clarke had died of natural causes, an ABC spokesman said.

He came to attention in his native New Zealand in the 1970s with the TV series Fred Dagg, a satirical take on the country bloke.

"Australian audiences have relied on John Clarke for always getting to the heart of how many Australians felt about the politics of the day and tearing down the hypocrisy and at times absurdity of elements of our national debate", ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, said in a statement. His feature credits include a breakthrough acting role in Bruce Beresford's The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie which starred Barry Humphries and Peter Cook; 1990 comedy thriller Death In Brunswick with Sam Neill; and war drama Prisoners Of The Sun with Russell Crowe, Bryan Brown and George Takei.

Amy Gillies Foundation chairman Mark Textor said the remarkable thing about Clarke's political satire "was that it was so very, very cutting but contained no bitterness".

Prime Minister Bill English tweeted his sadness, while Labour leader Andrew Little said he was devastated by Clarke's death.

- Jane Kennedy (@Jane_L_Kennedy) Shocked and saddened that John Clarke, a wise and amusing man, has left us.

"With the keenest eye and wit he understood the very essence of Australia", the Prime Minister wrote on Facebook. "In fact, we never will". His latest, and maybe last, performance was as Scott Morrison in a Clarke and Dawe sketch, undercutting the feeling Morrison wants us all to have, that he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are great mates, rather than the newly minted mortal enemies we're fairly sure they are.

In 1989, he worked with fellow satirist Bryan Dawe to conduct mock interviews.

The family on Monday issued a statement expressing their gratitude for the words of sympathy that had poured in from all corners. The sharpest, driest wit on Aussie TV. We packed out the Memorial Theatre and laughed till we cried.

- MEAA (@withMEAA) April 10, 2017Absolutely devastated to hear the news of the passing of the brilliant John Clarke. "His humor captured the experience of life in NZ and Australia".