John Bird dead at 86: Comedian died ‘peacefully’ on Christmas Eve

Comedian John Bird has died aged 86 (Picture: PA)

Comedian John Bird died ‘peacefully’ on Christmas Eve at the age of 86, it has been confirmed.

A statement announcing Bird’s death says he died ‘peacefully’ at Pendean care home and that a family funeral will be followed by a celebration of his life in the new year.

He became famous for sketches he performed alongside his comedy partners John Fortune and Rory Bremner on their Channel 4 show Bremner, Bird and Fortune.

Rory was amongst the first to pay tribute to Bird, saying: ‘It’s an irony that one of our greatest satirists, so brilliant at portraying ministers, civil servants or high-ranking officials who exuded self-satisfaction, was himself so modest and self-effacing.

‘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”.

‘The reality was that he and his friend and collaborator John Fortune, together with Peter Cook, were pillars of the anti-establishment.’

Rory Bremner on stage at the Albery Theatre in central London with John Bird (left) and John Fortune

He was best known for his work with Bremner, Bird and Fortune (Picture: Chris Young/PA Wire)

Bird’s death comes almost nine years to the day of his comedy partner Fortune’s who died on New Year’s Eve in 2013 at the age of 74.

Bremner added: ‘Lord knows, satire has missed them this last decade and now that loss is permanent. John may not have felt he got his life right, but by God he got it written.’

John Bird (left) and John Fortune on stage at the Albery Theatre in central London

Bird’s comedy partner John Fortune died on New Year’s Eve in 2013 (Picture: Chris Young/PA)

The comedy trio were nominated for four Baftas and won the TV award for their performance in 1997.

Bird, Bremner and Fortune also collaborated in BBC shows Now Something Else and The Rory Bremner Show and Channel 4 series Rory Bremner, Who Else?

Bird is survived by his wife Libby, a concert pianist, along with his step-sons Dan and Josh.

Actor Tony Gardner has paid tribute, writing on social media: ‘Honoured to have spent time in the company of John Bird while making TV and Radio over the years. A wonderful gentleman, hugely talented, incredibly funny and with ALL the stories. RIP John x.’

Comedian Angela Barnes added: ‘Ahh RIP John Bird, you were wonderful in Bremner Bird and Fortune, and Absolute Power and other satirical shows. However to me, and probably to others of my vintage, you will always be remembered as Marmalade Atkins’ Dad.’

Bird, born in Nottingham, went to a grammar school before going to Cambridge and meeting his comedy partner Fortune.

While there, he also directed comedian Peter Cook and actress Eleanor Bron in the 1959 Cambridge Footlights Revue, an annual show by the university comedy club which has seen David Mitchell, Richard Ayoade and Eric Idle among its members.

Bird then joined the Royal Court Theatre as an assistant director, hosted the first episode of Beyond The Fringe, directed Austrian-American singer Lotte Lenya in a Brecht revue and opened nightclub the Establishment Club with Cook in London, and New York.


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