31 December 2013
Last updated at 10:07 ET
John Fortune, the British comedian and satirist who found fame through his TV collaborations with John Bird and Rory Bremner, has died aged 74.
He died peacefully on Tuesday with his wife Emma and dog Grizelle at his bedside, his agent Vivienne Clore said.
“I’m so sorry to let you know that my friend John Fortune died this morning,” Bremner tweeted.
He remembered him as a “lovely man, dear friend” and a “brilliant fearless satirist”.
Born in 1939, he was educated in Bristol before going on to Cambridge where he met fellow satirist Bird.
A founding member of Peter Cook’s Establishment Club, Fortune shared a Bafta with Bird in 1997.
The award, for Best Light Entertainment Performance, came for their work on Channel 4′s Rory Bremner, Who Else? programme.
The trio went on to work together on the channel’s satirical sketch show Bremner, Bird and Fortune, which ran from 1999 to 2008.
Bremner [C], Bird [L] and Fortune [R] starred in their Channel 4 series together
Comedian and impressionist Bremner went on to describe Fortune as “the most lovely man” who “had the most beautiful brain of any man I’ve ever known”.
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.
“In some ways Bird and Fortune were the pillars of the anti-establishment,” he told the BBC. “Their timing was so superb and they had the ability to dissect a subject like a scalpel.”
ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart said Fortune, Bird and Bremner had created “some of the cleverist [sic], funniest stuff ever”, while League of Gentleman star Reece Shearsmith tweeted his respects to “a very funny man”.
‘Another goodun gone’
Only Fools and Horses star John Challis, who acted alongside Fortune in 1980s C.A.T.S. Eyes, said he was “so sad” to hear of his death.
“I played henchman to his chief villain… and we laughed a lot,” the actor recalled. “Another goodun gone.”
A former member of the Cambridge Footlights, Fortune was known for his prodigious height and his knack for mimicking old-school establishment types.
He also had small roles in a number of films, among them Calendar Girls, The Tailor of Panama and Woody Allen’s Match Point.
Yet he remains best known for the Long Johns skits he performed with Bird, in which they offered witty characterisations of bumbling politicians, military figures and businessmen.
During an appearance on Desert Island Discs in 2004, Fortune said it was “very difficult to keep a straight face” during he and Bird’s largely improvised duologues and that he was “very ashamed” whenever he ‘corpsed’.
Fortune is survived by his wife and three children.