Australasian comedy great John Clarke has died of natural causes, aged 69.

According to his family, the comedian and satirist died doing one of the things he loved most in the world: photographing birds in the bushland with his wife and friends.

A national comedy treasure on both sides of the Tasman, Clarke first found fame in his native New Zealand with his character Fred Dagg, who enjoyed chart success with his comedy albums and songs like We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are.

Frustrated by the lack of opportunities in New Zealand, Clarke moved to Australia and his first big break here came in 1985 with The Gillies Report. In 1989 he began his long-time comic partnership with Bryan Dawe, with their mock satirical interviews first appearing in a segment on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair before migrating to ABC’s The 7.30 Report in 1997; the most recent was broadcast last week.

Clarke’s biggest television success was The Games (1998), a mockumentary about the preparations for the Sydney Olympics, which he co-wrote and starred in alongside Dawe, Gina Riley and Nicholas Bell. In 2004, he also adapted two of Shane Maloney’s Murray Whelan books into TV movies, with Clarke sharing directorial duties with his friend Sam Neill, who he had starred with in the cult comedy Death In Brunswick (1990).

His other big screen credits include the comedy Crackerjack (in which he played the villain) and the Billy Connolly vehicle The Man Who Sued God, which he co-wrote.