John Bird death: Rory Bremner leads tributes to ‘one of the greatest satirists’

The actor and comedian John Bird has died aged 86.

Bird died peacefully on Christmas Eve, his representatives have confirmed.

Following news of his death, fellow comedian Rory Bremner paid tribute to “one of the greatest satirists”.

Together with the late John Fortune, Bird and Remner made up the trio of the TV series Bremner, Bird and Fortune.

The satirical show ran between 1999 and 2009. Across its 16 seasons, it was nominated for numerous Bafta TV Awards.

In the Sixties, Bird was part of the satire boom. He appeared reguarly in shows such as BBC’s That Was The Week That Was, which was presented by David Frost, and was one of the first BBC programmes to mock politicians.

The Nottingham-born comedian’s death follows almost nine years to the day after his co-star Fortune died at 74 years old (on New Year’s Eve 2013).

In a 2004 appearance on Desert Island Discs, Fortune described how difficult it was to keep a straight face when he and Bird filmed scenes together, many of which were improvised.

John Fortune, Rory Bremner and John Bird, who starred in sketch show ‘Bremner, Bird & Fortune’ (PA) (PA Media)
John Fortune, Rory Bremner and John Bird, who starred in sketch show ‘Bremner, Bird & Fortune’ (PA) (PA Media)

Bird’s film credits include Red and Blue (1967), A Dandy in Aspic (1968), Cynthia (1968), A Promise of Bed (1969), Jabberwocky (1977), and Yellow Pages (1988).

Speaking about his late co-star, Bremner, 61, wrote on Twitter: “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’.”

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He continued: “The reality was that he and his friend and collaborator John Fortune, together with Peter Cook, were pillars of the anti-establishment.”

Bird, Bremner and Fortune also collaborated on BBC shows including Now Something Else and The Rory Bremner Show, as well as the Channel 4 series Rory Bremner, Who Else?.

In 2007, Bird and Fortune rebooted their show in a special called The Last Laugh, which was broadcast on ITV’s The South Bank Show.

Bird is survived by his wife Libby, a concert pianist, and his stepsons, Dan and Josh.