John Bird (actor)

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John Bird
John Bird (1936–2022).jpg
John Michael Bird

(1936-11-22)22 November 1936
Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, England
Died24 December 2022(2022-12-24) (aged 86)
Midhurst, West Sussex, England
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge
Years active1962–2017
Ann Stockdale
(m. 1965; div. 1970)

Bridget Simpson
(m. 1975; div. 1978)

Libby Crandon
(died 2012)

John Michael Bird (22 November 1936 – 24 December 2022) was an English actor, director, writer and satirist. He performed in the television satire boom of the 1960s, appearing in That Was the Week That Was. His television work included many appearances with John Fortune. Bird had an acting career in film, television, theatre and radio for over 55 years. He appeared in films including Take A Girl Like You (1970) and Jabberwocky (1977) as well as in television shows such as Joint Account, Marmalade Atkins, El C.I.D. and Chambers. He also featured in the long-running Bremner, Bird and Fortune (1999–2010), on Channel 4, which was nominated for BAFTA TV Awards.

Early life[edit]

John Michael Bird was born in Bulwell, Nottingham,[1] where his father ran a small chemist's shop. He failed his 11-plus, but his secondary modern headmaster managed to have him transferred, aged 12, to High Pavement Grammar School. In 1956 he passed the entrance exam for King’s College, Cambridge; he read English literature and stayed for postgraduate studies with a thesis entitled "European Drama 1888–1914".[2]

Acting career[edit]

1960s and 1970s[edit]

While studying at Cambridge, Bird met fellow King's student John Fortune. During the television satire boom of the 1960s, Bird appeared in That Was the Week That Was (1962–1963), the title of which he had coined. The stage director Ned Sherrin intended for him to play David Frost's role in the series but Bird was committed elsewhere. He also appeared in the television programmes Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964–1965), and If It Moves File It (1970).[3][4]

Bird acted in straight and comic roles in several television series and in films including My Father Knew Lloyd George (1965), 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), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) and Jabberwocky (1977).[5] Bird also became an active stage director writer and actor, directing The Naming of Murderers’ Rock in 1960 at the Royal Court Theatre in London.[6] He toured with the production One Over The Eight in 1961[7] and appeared in Alice in Wonderland, directed by Jonathan Miller from 1966 to 1967.[8] His stage career continued into the 1970s, with his writing of the adaptation of Council Of Love in 1970,[9] which was shown at the Criterion Theatre in London, his appearance in Who’s Who? in 1972 in Guildford and Southsea[10] and in Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett at the Oxford Playhouse in 1973, as well as at the Lyric Theatre from 1973 to 1974.[11]

During the 1970s, while Idi Amin was at the height of his infamy, Bird starred on the album The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin, with lyrics based on Alan Coren's anti-Amin Punch columns.[12][13] In 1975 the single "Amazin' Man", from the album, was released on the Transatlantic label.[14] The record stayed for 12 weeks in the Australian Singles Chart, peaking at number 26. In 1975, Bird took the part of Mr Rembrandt in The Melting Pot, a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand. Milligan played Mr. Van Gogh (in brownface) alongside Bird as Mr. Rembrandt, father and son illegal Asian immigrants who are first seen being rowed ashore in England, having been told that the beach is in fact Piccadilly Circus.[15] It was cancelled by the BBC after one episode had been broadcast.[16] In 1979, Bird played an African chieftain in a cinema commercial for Silk Cut cigarettes.[17][18] He played Raymond, a nervous boy who stuttered, in Dennis Potter's play Blue Remembered Hills which was also broadcast in 1979.[19]


In 1980 Bird appeared in The Dangerous Brothers.[20] From 1981 to 1984, Bird made his mark in the world of children's entertainment taking the role of Mr Humphrey Atkins, the roguish father of Marmalade Atkins (played by Charlotte Coleman) for Thames Television.[21] In 1982, Bird performed in the role of the Duke of Albany in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of King Lear. In 1984 he played the part of Jack Ormand, a local gang boss, in the tenth episode of the Granada TV series Travelling Man. From 1986 to 1988 he starred as Ernest Hemmingway, the university vice chancellor, in the first series of A Very Peculiar Practice, working alongside Peter Davison.[22] Bird played the director of the British National Theatre in an episode of the BBC situation comedy Yes, Prime Minister broadcast in 1988. In 1988 he appeared in One Way Pendulum at the Old Vic Theatre.[23][24] From 1989 to 1990, he played opposite Hannah Gordon in the 16-episode sitcom Joint Account which was set in a bank.[25]


From 1990 to 1992, he starred in 18 episodes of the television detective series El C.I.D. which was 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 in the role of 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, he was the guest star in the Sooty & Co. episode "Voice Problems".[26] From 1996 to 1999, Bird starred as barrister John Fuller-Carp in the BBC radio and television sitcom Chambers.[27] He starred as well in the BBC Radio 4 and BBC Two series Absolute Power with Stephen Fry.[28][29] Bird guest-starred in two television series by writer David Renwick, namely in three episodes of the BBC mystery crime drama series Jonathan Creek as well as in one episode of the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave.[30][31]

Bird worked with John Fortune and Rory Bremner in the Channel 4 sketch comedy show Bremner, Bird and Fortune, which was nominated for BAFTA TV Awards. In the series of sketches with Fortune, which was 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 the character was named "George Parr".[32] In 2012, Bird appeared in the BBC produced TV film Bert and Dickie.[33] Bird worked with David Renwick again in 2016 on the BBC Radio 4 comedy show Desolation Jests.[34][35][36] Bird's final television appearance was in an episode of Midsomer Murders in 2017.[37]

Personal life and death[edit]

Bird was married to Ann Stockdale from 1965 to 1970; she was the daughter of Grant Stockdale, who served as the US Ambassador to Ireland from 1961 to 1962, the marriage ended in divorce.[1] He married television presenter Bridget Simpson in 1975, however they divorced in 1978. He was unhappy in his private life and his career was stalled; he began drinking heavily and taking amphetamines. During the mid-1970s he was seriously ill, paranoid, and was contemplating suicide.[1][2]

Bird lived with concert pianist and teacher Libby Crandon after 1978 and they later married. He had two stepsons from her previous marriage.[2] Crandon died in 2012.[1]

Bird died from complications of a stroke at Pendean House Care Home in Midhurst, West Sussex, on 24 December 2022, aged 86.[32][38]

Selected acting credits[edit]






  1. ^ a b c d Coveney, Michael (28 December 2022). "John Bird obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "John Bird, satirist and actor who with John Fortune became best known for excoriating the New Labour government of Tony Blair – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 28 December 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  3. ^ "Video". Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2020.[dead link]
  4. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "If It Moves, File It Cast and Crew Credits". British Comedy Guide.
  5. ^ "John Bird". British Film Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Production of The Naming of Murderers' Rock | Theatricalia".
  7. ^ a b "Production of One Over the Eight | Theatricalia".
  8. ^ a b "Production of Alice in Wonderland | Theatricalia".
  9. ^ a b "Production of Council Of Love | Theatricalia".
  10. ^ a b "Production of Who's Who? | Theatricalia".
  11. ^ a b "Production of Habeas Corpus | Theatricalia".
  12. ^ "John Bird-The Collected Broadcasts Of Idi Amin". YouTube. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  13. ^ "The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin". Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  14. ^ Amazin' Man on YouTube
  15. ^ Duguid, Mark (2003–14). "Race and the Sitcom". BFI screenonline. Retrieved 1 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: date format (link)
  16. ^ Milligan, Spike; Shand, Neil (1983). The Melting Pot. London: Robson Books. introductory pages. ISBN 0-86051-195-2.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "SILK CUT ZULU ADVERT". Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  19. ^ "Blue Remembered Hills (1979)". BFI.
  20. ^ "The Dangerous Brothers – 1985 – British Classic Comedy".
  21. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | MARMALADE ATKINS IN SPACE (1981)". 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  22. ^ "A Very Peculiar Practice – British Classic Comedy".
  23. ^ "John Bird obituary" – via
  24. ^ a b "Production of One Way Pendulum | Theatricalia".
  25. ^ Guide, British Comedy (28 December 2022). "John Bird dies aged 86". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  26. ^ "In Memory of John Bird (Sooty and Co)" – via
  27. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Chambers - Radio 4 Sitcom". British Comedy Guide.
  28. ^ "UK | Politics | BBC denies axing political satire". BBC News. 3 February 2004. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  29. ^ "BBC censor comedy scripts in post-Hutton panic and paranoia". Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  30. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Jonathan Creek Series 5, Episode 2 - The Sinner And The Sandman". British Comedy Guide.
  31. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "One Foot In The Grave Series 5, Episode 5 - The Exterminating Angel". British Comedy Guide.
  32. ^ a b "John Bird: Actor and comedian dies aged 86". BBC News. 28 December 2022. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  33. ^ "Bert and Dickie: Lord Clarence Aberdare". Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  34. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Desolation Jests - Available now".
  35. ^ "Desolation Jests (Radio Series)". Archived from the original on 5 May 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  36. ^ "John Bird". BFI.
  37. ^ "John Bird: Actor and comedian dies aged 86". BBC News. 28 December 2022. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  38. ^ "John Bird obituary". The Times. 29 December 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  39. ^
  40. ^ "John Bird". British Film Institute.
  41. ^ "Production of Murder in a Bad Light | Theatricalia".
  42. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Chambers". BBC.
  43. ^ "BBC - Radio 4 - Comedy - Absolute Power".
  44. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Absolute Power". BBC.
  45. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Desolation Jests". BBC.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]