|Rod Hull and his crazy bird Emu
were hugely popular on British TV in the 70's and 80's. His crazy
bird would attack everybody, and Michael Parkinson was famously
attacked on his show. He died after falling off his roof while
trying to fix a ariel.
biography below comes from here
1999) was a popular entertainer on
television in the 1970s and 1980s. He rarely appeared without
Emu, a mute, highly aggressive arm-length
of such a
bird. He died in 1999 after falling from the roof of his house,
while trying to adjust the TV aerial.
Hull was born in the
Isle of Sheppey,
England in 1935. He spent his early career in
Australia, where he worked on a children's breakfast TV
programme, The Super Flying Fun Show, and first used Emu as a
puppet. Emu became a regular part of Hull's set on cabarets back in
United Kingdom and Australia. Soon after, his Australian success
translated to his native country with Hull appearing on several
children's and adult light entertainment shows. In the late 1980s
Hull bought Restoration House in
Rochester, but went
bankrupt renovating it. The house was
repossessed and he moved to East Sussex.
Hull's puppet represented a side of
his personality that enabled the entertainer to create a kind of
gleeful havoc, while seemingly being not to blame for it. This was
aided by the simple yet effective conceit of a false arm attached to
Hull's jacket, which cradled the emu, therefore making it appear
that the neck and head moved of its own volition.
Emu goes for
It was during the 1970s that Hull
and the uncontrollable Emu made their most famous appearances. The
bird repeatedly attacked
Michael Parkinson during an edition of his eponymous chat show,
eventually causing the interviewer to fall off his chair. Fellow
Billy Connolly threatened, "If that bird comes anywhere near me,
I'll break its neck and your bloody arm!". Perhaps mindful of his
professional future, Hull swiftly got his "pet" back on best
behaviour. In later years, Parkinson always lamented the fact that
despite all the star guests he had interviewed during his career, he
would always be remembered for "that bloody bird".
There were no apparent boundaries
for Emu's outrageous behaviour. In 1972, it ate
The Queen Mother's bouquet of flowers at a
Royal Variety Performance. During an appearance on
The Tonight Show, he even attacked
Richard Pryor in one of the comedian's first public appearances
after undergoing major emergency reconstructive surgery on his face.
However, Hull was careful to tailor the bird's conduct according to
his audience, and always ensured that it displayed a friendly
demeanour when in the company of children.
Hull and Emu were regulars on the
Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, which aired for one
season as a Saturday morning kids' show on
During the 1980s Hull was a
multi-millionaire, thanks to his anarchic puppet, and enjoyed huge
success with Emu's World and
Emu's All Live Pink Windmill Show. The record viewership for
his main show, Emu's Broadcasting Company, was 11 million.
However, he later suffered financial difficulties and was declared
bankrupt in 1994.
Hull was in the public eye less
frequently during the 1990s, appearing in
pantomime and television commercials, and winning the 1993 "Pipe
Smoker of the Year" award. Nonetheless, his name remained
well-known, and comedians
Richard Herring and
Stewart Lee included a "Rod Hull" character in their 1996
television sketch show,
Fist of Fun, played by the actor
Kevin Eldon. This character was performed as a grotesque
imitation, a character who was finally unmasked by the real Rod
appeared (minus Emu) in the last episode of the series. It was
to be Hull's penultimate television appearance.
A 2003 TV documentary, When Rod
Hull Met Emu, revealed that Hull nursed an increasing resentment
towards his puppet, believing that the success of the bird prevented
him from pursuing other avenues in showbusiness. He saw himself,
according to the programme-makers, as a talented performer who could
have developed a more varied career in the entertainment industry
had he not been forced to repeatedly play the '& Emu' role.
Another very funny piece on Rod
Hull can be found here