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John Bird
Born (1936-11-22) 22 November 1936 (age 85)
OccupationActor, comedian, satirist
Years active1962–present

John Bird (born 22 November 1936) is an English satirist, actor and comedian, known for his work in television satire, including many appearances with John Fortune.

Early life

John Bird was born in Bulwell, Nottingham, and attended High Pavement Grammar School, Nottingham. While studying at King's College, Cambridge, he met John Fortune. Bird became well known during the television satire boom of the 1960s, appearing in That Was The Week That Was, the title of which was coined by Bird. Bird was intended by Ned Sherrin for David Frost's role in the series, but was committed elsewhere. He also appeared in the television programmes Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, If It Moves File It, Dangerous Brothers, A Very Peculiar Practice and My Father Knew Lloyd George, as well as in The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.[1]

Acting career

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Bird acted straight and comic roles in several television series and in films such as Red and Blue (1967), A Dandy in Aspic (1968), 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968), This, That and the Other (1969), Take A Girl Like You (1970), Jabberwocky (1977), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), and Yellow Pages (1988). During the 1970s, when Idi Amin was at the height of his infamy, Bird starred on a popular recording (The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin) based on Alan Coren's anti-Idi Punch columns.

In 1975, Bird took the part of Mr Rembrandt, described as "Van Gogh's son, also an illegal [Pakistani] immigrant", in The Melting Pot. This was a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand, which was cancelled by the BBC after just one episode had been broadcast.[2] Bird, in blackface, played an African Chief in a commercial for Benson & Hedges cigarettes.[3]

Bird played Raymond, a nervous boy who stuttered in Dennis Potter's play Blue Remembered Hills which was broadcast in 1979. He played the Director of the British National Theatre in an episode of the BBC situation comedy Yes, Prime Minister transmitted in 1988. During 1989–90, he played opposite Hannah Gordon in the 16-episode bank sitcom Joint Account. From 1981 to 1984, Bird made his mark in the world of children's entertainment when he took on the role of Mr Humphrey Atkins, the roguish father of Marmalade Atkins (played by Charlotte Coleman) for Thames Television.[citation needed]

In 1982 Bird performed he Duke of Albany in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of King Lear. In 1984, Bird played the part of Jack Ormand, a local gang boss, in the tenth episode of the Granada TV series Travelling Man. From 1990–92, he starred in eighteen episodes of the television detective series, El C.I.D., set in Spain. The series was serious rather than comedy-based, and co-starred Alfred Molina in the first two series and Amanda Redman in the third. In 1993, Bird featured as Professor Plum in the fourth series of Cluedo and appeared as a newspaper editor in the political drama To Play the King.

Also in 1993, Bird was the guest star in the Sooty & Co. episode 'Voice Problems'.

Bird starred as barrister John Fuller-Carp in the BBC radio and television sitcom Chambers. He has also starred in the BBC Radio 4 and BBC Two series Absolute Power with Stephen Fry.

Bird has also guest-starred in two television series by writer David Renwick, namely in three episodes of Jonathan Creek, as well as in one episode of One Foot in the Grave. He also featured in Renwick's 2016 BBC Radio 4 show Desolaton Jests.[4][5][6]

He is known in the UK for his work with John Fortune and Rory Bremner in Bremner, Bird and Fortune, which won several awards. In the series of sketches with John Fortune, known as The Long Johns, one of the two men interviewed the other in the guise of a senior figure such as a politician, businessman or government consultant, invariably called George Parr. For one of these sketches ("The Last Laugh"), which was recorded for The South Bank Show and broadcast on 14 October 2007, they were afterwards credited with having been among the first to predict the seriousness of the financial crisis of 2007–2008.[7][8]


  1. ^ "Video". Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2020.[dead link]
  2. ^ Milligan, Spike; Shand, Neil (1983). The Melting Pot. London: Robson Books. introductory pages. ISBN 0-86051-195-2.
  3. ^ McLean, Adam, ed. (2015). It was Alright in the... (Television production). Series 2 Episode 6 "1970s". United Kingdom: Objective Productions , Channel 4 – via All 4.
  4. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Desolation Jests - Available now".
  5. ^ "Desolation Jests (Radio Series)".
  6. ^ "John Bird".
  7. ^ James, Harold (25 December 2008). "The Marx Renaissance | by Harold James". Project Syndicate.
  8. ^ "The Last Laugh: John Bird and John Fortune Reviews". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.

Further reading