John Fortune, the comedian made famous on Bremner, Bird and Fortune, has died at the age of 74. His agent said the veteran satire comic died peacefully with his wife Emma at his bedside.
Vivienne Clore said: "It is with great sadness that I write of the death of John Fortune this morning aged 74. He died peacefully with his wife, Emma and dog Grizelle, at his bedside. A renowned satirist, early work included contributions to Peter Cook's Establishment club and more latterly his work with long term collaborator, John Bird and Rory Bremner. He is survived by his adored wife, Emma and three children."
Fortune was best known for his sketches alongside fellow comedian John Bird. The pair became household names for The Long Johns skits in which the double-act made witty characterisations of bumbling politicians, military figures and businessmen. In 1997 he won a Bafta for Best Light Entertainment Performance for his work on Rory Bremner, Who Else? alongside Bremner and Bird. He was also nominated four times for Baftas between 1999 and 2003.
Paying tribute, Bremner tweeted: "I'm so sorry to let you know that my friend John Fortune died this morning. Lovely man, dear friend, brilliant & fearless satirist." Ms Clore also tweeted: "So formidable of brain and so fearless and generous of heart #RIP John Fortune".
John Challis, who played Boycie in Only Fools And Horses, acted alongside Fortune. Paying tribute to his friend, he tweeted: "So sad to hear that John Fortune has died. "I played henchman to his chief villain in Cat's Eyes and we laughed a lot. Another goodun gone."
Oh how sad John Fortune has died. He was in the first play I was ever in, 40 Years On. Huge influence on the satire boom. Loved parrots too— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) December 31, 2013
Broadcaster Stephen Fry tweeted: "Oh how sad John Fortune has died. He was in the first play I was ever in, 40 Years On. Huge influence on the satire boom." Paying tribute, Bremner described John Fortune as a "most extraordinary, generous, kind, lovely man."
"He loved puns, he was a very, very warm and extraordinarily generous man as well but behind it all the most brilliant mind," he told BBC News.
He said John Fortune had known his comedy partner John Bird since the 1960s when they were at Cambridge and they had a "deep friendship". In some ways, they were like the pillars of the anti-establishment," he said. "He had years and years of experience as a comedian, as a satirist, as an actor and as a writer as well," he said.
He said Bird and Fortune had been "on to" subjects such as the banking crisis and the utilities "years ago" which they dissected "beautifully" in their comedy sketches. "John Bird and John Fortune were on to them years ago and doing sketches week in week out which were taking them apart in a way which seemed on the surface gentle, but it was like a scalpel, beautifully taking issues apart yet with a smile and a warmth," he said.
I'm so sorry to let you know that my friend John Fortune died this morning. Lovely man, dear friend, brilliant & fearless satirist.— Rory Bremner (@rorybremner) December 31, 2013
Friend and long-time producer on Bremner, Bird And Fortune Geoff Atkinson described him as "unique", adding: "He was a joy to work with, an inspiration as a writer, and the funniest person you could ever meet. But it was as a friend that I valued him most. His partnership with John Bird seemed effortless on air yet every week they'd sit with a blank sheet of paper and 10 minutes to fill in five days' time - that they filled it so brilliantly week after week never failed to amaze me.
"He steered and shaped the shows we made (nearly 150) and it was his soul that sat at the heart of what we did. Honest, kind, caring, over 20 years, I benefited so much from his quiet wise words as a friend, and an inspiration. It's horrible to know we'll never hear George Parr's voice again."