Thank you, Clive James

Watching the crazy Yamasa soy sauce ad (see my previous post, The best TV ad in the world ever) made me think of Clive James.

As the man who made an artform of laughing at crazy oriental TV, I’m sure it would be right up his street.

It seems somewhat anachronistic in these modern times, particularly now UK television is swamped with gameshows every bit as inane as those he used to poke fun at, but as a kid in the eighties I loved Clive James on Television.

Millions of viewers tuned in each week to snigger at an assortment of funny and bizarre TV clips from around the world, like a curated version of YouTube before the concept of online video ever existed.

Clive James is much more than just a TV host though.  He is at heart a wordsmith; an acclaimed author, critic and poet.

He is also terminally ill, having been diagnosed with both leukaemia and emphysema in 2010.

Completely sound of mind, but with little physical energy and too ill to return to his native Australia, he has turned again to poetry:

“I have been quite ill for three years now but have found that when I have any energy and clarity of mind at all, poetry has been my first means of signalling how I feel. I don’t quite know what this says about how deep the instinct must lie to express oneself in verse.” 

Trapped in a foreign country, and trapped in his own failing body, he has employed his rare ability to ‘turn a phrase until it catches the light’ to create a series of beautiful, tender, and contemplative poems reflecting on his life and impending death.

A fuller collection of his work is available at, but as a starting point I’d urge you to read a couple of his more recent pieces, Rounded with a Sleep and Japanese Maple.

As Charlie Brooker pointed out in this 2012 column, reports of Clive James’ death are thankfully somewhat premature.  He’s been talking about popping his clogs for a couple of years now but remains resolutely alive, if not exactly well.

To quote the man himself though, “stop worrying – nobody gets out of this world alive”.

So while he is still around, and producing some of the finest work of his career, I’d just like to echo Charlie Brooker’s comments.

Thank you, Clive James; thank you.


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