A Bird In The Hand was what Channel 4 called its biog of tragic emu-wielding funnyman Rod Hull. The show ran along standard tears-behind-the-laughter lines; what really divided the viewers was the question of whether Emu was funny. Alan and I voted an uproarious yes; Emma and Isabel a stony-faced no. I’m always quite impressed by comedians who manage to keep one single joke going over an extreme length of time, and Emu is surely the champion of this. Even watching clips that have turned grey through repetition I couldn’t help laugh – for one thing the gangly Hull was a terrific physical comedian; for another Emu was an unusually expressive puppet (only Kermit comes close); but even at this distance its still possible to get your main thrill from Hull getting away with beating up or groping anyone he likes because he has a cloth bird on his arm. Producers on the Johnny Carson show, we were told, had expressly told Hull not to attack Carson with Emu: but Emu without the violence was no act at all and Carson duly got a beak in the face. Even the programme’s narrator’s couldn’t help themselves – after Emu’s introduction they talked about Hull and his bird as entirely separate creatures.

(And of course now they are – Emu is apparently back on stage after four years in mothballs, on the arm of Hull’s son)

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