John Bird (actor)

John Bird (born 22 November 1936) is an English satirist, actor and comedian, best known for his work with John Fortune.

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

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

Bird also acted straight and comic roles in several television series and in films such as 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, stuttering boy in Dennis Potter's play Blue Remembered Hills, in 1979. He played the Director of the British National Theatre in an episode of the BBC situation comedy Yes, Prime Minister broadcast in 1988. In 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. This role endeared him to a whole new generation of young fans.

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 starred as Professor Plum in the fourth series of Cluedo and appeared as a newspaper editor in the political drama To Play the King.

Bird starred as barrister John Fuller-Carp in the BBC radio and television sitcom Chambers. He also stars in the BBC Radio 4 and BBC Two series Absolute Power with Stephen Fry. Bird has also guest-starred in a number of television series, an example being the Jonathan Creek episode "The Three Gamblers", in which he plays a police inspector.

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. In one of these sketches ("The Last Laugh"), which was recorded for The South Bank Show and broadcast on 14 October 2007, they were credited with being one of the first to predict the seriousness of the financial crisis of 2007–2008.[4][5]


  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. "The Marx Renaissance".
  5. "The Last Laugh: John Bird and John Fortune Reviews". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.

Further reading

  • Bird, John; Fortune, John (1996). The Long Johns. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-180216-4.
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