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Creator / Clive James

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"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing."

Vivian Leopold James (born 7 October 1939), better known as Clive James, is an Australian-British journalist, novelist and TV presenter who gained fame in the United Kingdom from 1972 on thanks to his thought provoking interviews and witty analysis of politicians, literature, music, art, film and television, published in various newspapers, magazines and periodicals. His television column in "The Guardian", published from 1972 to 1982, brought in many new readers and subscribers.

He was very prominent throughout the 1980s and early 1990s on ITV and The BBC where he presented various talk shows ("Saturday Night Clive", "Sunday Night Clive"), travel series ("Postcards"), documentaries ("Fame In The 20th Century"), Formula One races (the 1982, 1984 and 1986 seasons), programmes showcasing unusual footage from foreign TV shows ("Clive James On Television") and New Year shows looking back at the past year via archive footage. Sadly most of James' TV work is a case of Keep Circulating the Tapes. Snippets of his talkshows do turn up on Youtube from time to time, but will likely not see reruns or a DVD release soon seeing that he often pokes fun at archive footage from other TV stations for which copyright needs to be paid. Another example of this is his 1993 ambitious documentary series Fame In The 20th Century, about celebrities in the 20th century. The show used a lot of archive footage and clips from films and TV series, again bringing copyright problems into the mix. There is a book about the series, though, and it is available online on James' personal web site. On the Internet itself there is hardly any footage of this interesting series to be found.


James has written many books on literary criticism, essays and poetry. In 2013 he translated The Divine Comedy into English.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2012.

His personal site can be viewed here: [1].

Clive James' work provides examples of:

  • Awesome Aussie: He is an Australian who managed to become a popular presenter and author in the United Kingdom.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: His documentary series "Fame Of The 20th Century" talks about how fame evolved during the 20th century as a result of the rise of mass media, especially film. From the 20th century on people could become famous in a matter of days and without having to do something first. Every episode handled roughly a decade and discussed many universally famous celebrities. He notes that "fame without achievement is nothing".
  • Deadpan Snarker: He is notorious for his dry, witty commentary, both in writing as during his commentary over video footage.
    • There are several old Formula One review videos presented by Clive James that are full of wit (and a little sarcasm): "The Renaults looked very impressive touring around together like Fangio and Moss. Or Flanagan and Allen"; "In Mansell's pit I was glad to see that his helmet was still globular. Instead of crushed flat by the burden of being called 'The British Hope'"; "While the Renaults were being put back together so they could be thrown away..."; "Senna was so moved that he spoke"; "Piquet was on the pole. He was still on it when everyone else went past."
  • Everyone Went to School Together: His college contemporaries at Cambridge were Germaine Greer, Simon Schama and Eric Idle.
  • Homage: He was a personal friend of Princess Diana and heart broken when he heard of her death. He wrote a touching in memoriam about her: [2]
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: The very nature of his documentary series "Fame In The 20th Century", which discussed the rise of celebrity in the 20th century by talking about many universally famous people like Charlie Chaplin, Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Louis Armstrong, Al Capone, Adolf Hitler, Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway, Mao Zedong, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bruce Lee, Madonna, Muhammad Ali, Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, Michael Jackson, Princess Diana,... to name a few.
  • Long-Runners: James has been a mainstay in British media since 1972, despite slowing down a bit due to his terminal cancer since the early 2010s.
  • Meaningful Rename: His real given name is Vivien, but he was allowed to change it to Clive to avoid gender confusion.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Due to the fact that he often appeared on British television many people assume he is English, but he is actually a native of Sydney, Australia. He has lived and worked in the UK since 1962.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: To the general public he is most famous as a TV presenter, rather than an author.
  • Pun-Based Title: His shows "Saturday Night Clive" and "Sunday Night Clive".
  • Self-Deprecation: Clive often pokes fun at his baldness and old looks.
    • In a 1987 TV special where he visited Japan he converses with a salaryman who gives his age as 38. To which James responds, "You're 38, and you look 20. I'm 47, and I look 87."
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Often appeared in tuxedo while presenting his TV shows.
  • Stock Footage: James often made sarcastic or ironic comments while showing archive footage from the channel's own news reports or footage from other channels.
  • Vacation Episode: His TV series "Postcards" had Clive James travel to many large cities in the world, including New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Bombay, Miami, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai and Sydney.


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