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24 September 2014

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John Bird

John Bird

A leading light of the early 1960s satire boom, John Bird trained among the startlingly talented generation of performers who were pumped out seemingly annually by the Cambridge Footlights.

Writing, directing and performing several shows there, he also met long-time comedy partner John Fortune and, despite starting a PhD, he soon gave it up to concentrate on a career in the arts.

Bird starred at Peter Cook's satirical nightclub The Establishment before touring a show to Chicago, his commitments abroad preventing him from taking up the anchor role on groundbreaking new TV series That Was the Week that Was (the position was filled instead by his then-flatmate David Frost).

Nonetheless he became a familiar face on TV screens, in series including The Late Show and Not so Much a Programme, More a Way of Life.

His appetite for razor-sharp satire continued throughout the Seventies, for instance by recording albums adapting Alan Coren's books on Idi Amin (when the Ugandan dictator was at the height of his power), and his enduring partnership with Fortune remains a force today.

In the early 1990s their much-loved interview sketches (The Long Johns) found a perfect home within Rory Bremner's firebrand Channel 4 shows.

Their segments are unfailingly rib-tickling, often featuring savage attacks on government, sometimes simply quoting policy papers because they were funnier than anything they could have written and occasionally sparking a bout of corpsing in one another.

Bird's accomplished acting has been seen over the years in many dramas (eg. El C.I.D.), as well as a starring turn in sharp PR-based sitcom Absolute Power, and after more than forty years in the business he still ranks among Britain's best loved satirists.

Appearances by John Bird
Start YearAliasProgramme BrandCountry

As an Actor

Absolute Power 2000

As a Performer

BBC-3 1965

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