Off The Record
John Bird: Actor And Comedian Dies Aged 86
People close to the actor and comedian John Bird confirmed his death at age 86.
Bird became known for skits done alongside John Fortune and Rory Bremner in Channel 4’s satirical show Bremner, Bird and Fortune. From 1999 through 2008, the show aired for a total of sixteen seasons and a handful of specials.
Bird passed away “peacefully” at the Pendean care home in West Sussex, according to the statement announcing his death. He will be laid to rest with his family, and then his life will be celebrated in the new year, the statement continued.
Infamous for their comedic antics in The Long Johns, Bird and Fortune are now recognized all over the world. One actor would play a prominent public figure being questioned by the other in the highly improvised set pieces.
Whether he was a made-up businessman, government consultant, or clumsy politician, the interviewer would try to pick George Parr’s brain.
The comedians were nominated for four Baftas and won the TV prize in 1997 for their work on Channel 4’s Rory Bremner, Who Else? Bird, Bremner and Fortune also teamed on the BBC show Now Something Else.
Bremner praised his former workmate, who he called “one of our greatest satirists,” on Wednesday. A man “so brilliant at portraying ministers, civil servants or high-ranking officials who exuded self-satisfaction, was himself so modest and self-effacing” he added.
“John Bird was, to the end, never pleased with himself, always feeling he should have done better, been less lazy, had a late period like Brahms, ‘where everything was spare and abstract’,” Bremner said.
“The reality was that he and his friend and collaborator John Fortune, together with Peter Cook, were pillars of the anti-establishment.”
Bremner noted it was “striking” Bird had died on Christmas Eve “nine years, nearly to the day” after Fortune, who died aged 74 on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
“Lord knows, satire has missed them this last decade and now that loss is permanent,” he said. “John may not have felt he got his life right, but by god he got it written.”
A highlight of Bremner’s life, he would “marvel at the genius of it all” after witnessing Bird and Fortune at work.
Bird, who met his future comedy partner, Fortune, at Cambridge, after attending a grammar school.
Also during his time at Cambridge, he directed the comedian Peter Cook and the actor Eleanor Bron in the 1959 Cambridge Footlights Revue, an annual show by the university comedy club that has also featured the talents of David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade, and Eric Idle.
Following her time as an assistant director at the Royal Court Theatre, Bird hosted the pilot episode of Beyond the Fringe, directed Austrian-American vocalist Lotte Lenya in a Brecht revue, and co-founded the London and New York nightclub the Establishment Club with partner Alan Cook.
Over the course of his career, Bird appeared in a number of different films and television shows, including the fantasy comedy Jabberwocky, as well as the comedies Yes, Prime Minister, A Very Peculiar Practice, Chambers, and One Foot in the Grave, and the detective shows Jonathan Creek, Inspector Morse, and Midsomer Murders.
Two stepsons, Dan and Josh, will carry on his legacy. He lost his wife, the concert pianist Libby, in 2012.