After the 86-year-old comedian John Bird passed away, his former colleagues paid tribute to one of Britain’s “best satirists.” He was most known for his sarcastic routines on the Channel 4 program Bremner, Bird, and Fortune with John Fortune and Bremner. Former coworkers from the show praised his “modest” demeanor.
Bremner, a 61-year-old Scottish impressionist, commented, “It is ironic that one of our greatest satirists was so modest and self-effacing while portraying ministers, civil employees, and other high-ranking individuals who emanated self-satisfaction…
“In the end, John Bird was never satisfied with himself because he always felt he might have done better, been less sluggish, and gone through a late period “when everything was spare and abstract.” The truth was that he, his friend and business partner John Fortune, and Peter Cook were staunch opponents of the status quo.
A statement announcing his passing stated that Bird passed away “peacefully” at the Pandean nursing home and that his life would be celebrated in the new year after a family funeral. Bremner found it “interesting” that Fortune, who passed away at age 74 on New Year’s Eve in 2013, passed away on Christmas Eve, “nine years, nearly to the day” after Bird.
Lord knows satire has missed them during the past ten years, and he continued that loss is now irreparable. John might not have thought his life was perfect, but by God, it was recorded. Bird and Fortune became well-known figures with The Long Johns comedy routines, in which the double-act portrayed clumsy politicians, military leaders, and businesspeople.
For their performance in 1997, they were nominated for four Baftas and took home the television prize. Bird, Bremner, and Fortune also worked together on the Channel 4 series Rory Bremner, Who Else? and the BBC programs Now Something Else and The Rory Bremner Show.
In addition to the comedies Yes, Prime Minister, A Very Peculiar Practice, Chambers, and One Foot In The Grave, Bird also made appearances in the dramas Jonathan Creek, Inspector Morse, and Midsomer Murders.
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According to him, the “highlight” of Bremner’s life was witnessing Bird and Fortune at work, and he still “marvels at the genius of it all.” Before the cameras started rolling, he said, Bird might be reticent and anxious, but once he had to act, he would be “shamelessly playful.”
Bird and Fortune brought their show back to life in a special titled The Last Laugh that aired on ITV’s The South Bank Show in 2007. As the comedy “ridicules the city culture that led to the catastrophe with extraordinary perspicacity,” Bremner continued, it was possible to “understand the madness underlying the 2008 financial crash” by seeing the comedians’ portrayals of an investment banker and an interviewer.
“They realized that true satire lay not in ad hominem attacks on politicians but in exposing the cant behind the “discipline of the market” and the privatization culture where top executives were compensated equally for success and failure,” he continued.
Bird, a Nottingham native, attended a grammar school before enrolling in Cambridge University, where he met Fortune, his comedy partner.
He also oversaw the 1959 Cambridge Footlights Revue, a yearly production of the university comic club that included David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade, and Eric Idle, which featured actors Eleanor Bron and comedian, Peter Cook.
The Bird then became an assistant director at the Royal Court Theatre, staged the premiere of Beyond The Fringe, oversaw the Austrian-American vocalist Lotte Lenya in a Brecht revue, and co-founded the Establishment Club in London and New York with Cook. Dan and Josh, his stepsons, are his only heirs.
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