Comedy legend John Bird died on Christmas Eve aged 86, it was announced today – with Rory Bremner paying tribute to ‘one of our greatest satirists’.
Bird became known for his sketches performed alongside John Fortune and Bremner on the satirical Channel 4 show Bremner, Bird And Fortune.
Bremner, 61, wrote: “It is an irony that one of our greatest satirists, so brilliant at portraying cabinet ministers, bureaucrats or high officials who exuded complacency, should himself be so modest and erased.”
“John Bird was, until the end, never satisfied with himself, always feeling that he should have done better, been less lazy, had a late period like Brahms, “where everything was stripped down and abstract”. The reality was that he and his friend and collaborator John Fortune, as well as Peter Cook, were stalwarts of the anti-establishment.
John Bird has died aged 86. He is seen arriving at the 1999 Baftas at Grosvenor House in London
Bird (left) with Rory Bremner (middle) and John Fortune at the Albery Theater in London on October 2, 2002
Bird – seen here in 1966 – died on Christmas Eve. He is survived by his wife Libby, a concert pianist, and his stepsons Dan and Josh.
A statement announcing Bird’s death said he passed away ‘peacefully’ at Pendean care home and a family funeral would be followed by a celebration of his life in the New Year.
Bremner said it was “striking” that Bird died on Christmas Eve “nine years, almost to the day” after Fortune, who died aged 74 on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
“God knows, satire has failed them for the past decade and now that loss is permanent,” he added.
“John may not have felt he had a good life, but by God he wrote it.”
Bird and Fortune became household names with their comedy sketches The Long Johns, in which the double act played bumbling politicians, military figures and businessmen.
They were nominated for four Baftas and won the television award for their performance in 1997.
Bird, Bremner and Fortune have also worked on the BBC shows Now Something Else and The Rory Bremner Show and the Channel 4 series Rory Bremner, Who Else?
Bird (left) and John Fortune hold their awards for Best Light Entertainment Performance at the 1997 Baftas
Bird’s friend Rory Bremner paid tribute to his co-star on Twitter today
Bird made guest appearances in the fantasy comedy film Jabberwocky, the comedy shows 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.
Bremner added that seeing Bird and Fortune work was the “highlight” of his life and he would “marvel at the genius of it all.”
He added that Bird could be shy and nervous before the cameras started rolling, but once he had to perform, he would be a “shameless player”.
In 2007, Bird and Fortune revived their show in a special called The Last Laugh which aired on ITV’s The South Bank Show.
Bremner added that watching the skit with the comedians, playing an investment banker and interviewer, was a way to “understand the madness behind the financial crash of 2008” because it “ridicules the culture of the city that led to the crash. with astonishing insight”.
“They realized that the real satire was not in ad hominem attacks on politicians, but in exposing ‘market discipline’ and the culture of privatization where business leaders were rewarded for success and also compensated for the failure,” he added.
Bird (left) and John Fortune on stage at the Albery Theater in central London on October 2, 2002
Bird (far right) at the National Television Center in 1965. Also pictured, left to right, are Robert Robinson, Bill Oddie, Lynda Baron and Leonard Rossiter
Nottingham-born Bird went to high school before going to Cambridge and meeting his comedic partner Fortune.
While there he also directed comedian Peter Cook and actress Eleanor Bron in the 1959 Cambridge Footlights Revue, an annual show of the college comedy club which saw David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade and Eric Idle among its members.
Bird then joined the Royal Court Theater as an assistant director, hosted the first episode of Beyond The Fringe, directed Austrian-American singer Lotte Lenya in a Brecht revue, and opened The Establishment Club with Cook nightclub in London and At New York.
He is survived by his stepsons Dan and Josh.