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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 (7 October 1939 24 November 2019), better known as Clive James, was an Australian-British journalist, critic, poet, 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 poked fun at archive footage from other TV stations for which copyright needs to be paid. Another example of this is his ambitious 1993 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.

In his final years he had predicted that when he did pass away the archive would be reopened in tribute - and this is almost exactly what happened with The BBC repeating some of his Postcard series and making them available on streaming.

James wrote 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 was an Australian who managed to become a popular presenter and author in the United Kingdom.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: His documentary series "Fame In The 20th Century" talked about how fame evolved during the 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 noted that "fame without achievement is nothing".
  • Cool Car: In the Postcards from both Los Angeles and Miami he hires a suitably flash car to drive around.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He is notorious for his dry, witty commentary, both in writing as during his commentary over video footage. There are several of his old Formula One review videos 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."
  • Dodgy Toupee: He gets one as part of a Hollywood makeover, and ends up becoming quite fond of it (as it is actually pretty good).
    I was drunk with the feeling of "why not? Why not have young hair on top of an old face?
  • 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]
  • Fix It in Post: In his memoir about his time in TV, James reveals that becuase of technical glitches the charity gala segment from the Miami Postcard special is actually a mix of the real gala, and a pretend party arranged by the producer nearly a year later starring many of the same socialites (who were willing to put on the same outfits), all so they could get the shots they needed.
  • 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 was a mainstay in British media from 1972 on, despite slowing down a bit due to his terminal cancer in the early 2010s.
  • Meaningful Rename: His real given name was Vivien, but he was allowed to change it to Clive to avoid gender confusion.
  • Mentor in Sour Armor: When he needs to learn to drive for a celebrity race in his native Australia he hires his hero - Stirling Moss. Moss's opening line is "How the hell did you get to be this old without learning to drive?". James doesn't mind though since part of the answer is he was so awed by Moss's abilities when watching him race he decided "not to bother learning to do what he could do so well".
  • Mistaken Nationality: Due to the fact that he often appeared on British television many people assume he was English, but he was actually a native of Sydney, Australia. He lived and worked in the UK from 1962.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: To the general public he was 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 poked fun at his own baldness and old looks. In a 1987 TV special where he visited Japan he conversed with a salaryman who gave his age as 38, to which James responded, "You're 38, and you look 20. I'm 47, and I look 87."
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: James 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.
  • Take That!: His poem The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered is a massive Take That!, although James never revealed who his "enemy" was
  • Vacation Episode: His TV series "Postcards" had 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.