Gyles Brandreth blames himself for Rod Hull’s death: ‘I killed a man – the emu man’

Gyles Brandreth blames himself for Rod Hull’s death: ‘I killed a man – the emu man’
  • PublishedMay 5, 2024

Gyles Brandreth told John Cleese he feels responsible for the deaths of both Rod Hull and Harry Secombe, describing the tragic events around both men’s deaths.

Gyles Brandreth says he blames himself for the death of Rod Hull, who died in 1999 when he fell from the roof of his home while attempting to adjust his television aerial.

The 63-year-old entertainer was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital with a coroner later recording a verdict of accidental death.

Rod Hull and Emu were popular in the 1970s and 1980s
Image:Hull and Emu were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Pic: Rex Features

Speaking to John Cleese on the latest episode of his Rosebud podcast, Brandreth said: “I killed a man – it was Rod Hull, the emu man.”

The 76-year-old former GMB presenter went on to explain he had been at the theatre with Hull on the day of his death, a day he said was blighted by “terrible, terrible weather”.

Brandreth went on: “He was sitting next to me, and he was complaining all through the show – he was interrupting the show almost – going on about how he wanted to get home because he wanted to watch the football, but his Sky aerial wasn’t transmitting properly.

“And I said, ‘Don’t moan about it, if you want to watch the television get a ladder out, climb on to the roof, and fix it Rod’.”

He went on to describe Hull’s accident, saying: “And after the show, in this stormy weather, he went home, he got out a ladder, he climbed the ladder, and he tried to fix the aerial.

“Unfortunately, the wind was very great, and he fell backwards off the ladder and killed himself.”

Brandreth said that while he wasn’t present at the time of the accident, he felt he’d “encouraged” him to climb on the roof.

Rod Hull and Emu on Michael Parkinson
Image:Hull and Emu on Michael Parkinson in 1976

Brandreth also explained how Hull had surprised those who attended his funeral with a pre-planned skit featuring his famous puppet.

‘That bloody bird’

Brandreth said: “It was a great funeral though because at his funeral the coffin came in, and as the coffin was being carried in, it was a sort of [knock, knock, knock].

“He’d arranged a beak sound to be inside the coffin as though the emu was also in the coffin.”

Hull and Emu first found fame on an Australian children’s TV show, before returning to the UK to establish their act.

Emu famously attacked talk show host Michael Parkinson in 1976, with only a threat from Billy Connolly keeping the puppet under control for the rest of the show. With the moment becoming one of Parkinson’s most memorable moments, he would later refer to the itinerant puppet as “that bloody bird!”.

Their popularity peaked in the late 1970s and 1980s, getting their own shows first on the BBC, then ITV, and a later animated follow-up – Rod ‘n’ Emu – on CITV in 1991.

Brandreth, who was previously a Conservative MP for the City of Chester, also said he “killed Harry Secombe”, describing how he had just completed a phone interview with the Welsh actor when he “fell and slipped backwards down the stairs, and a few days later he died”.

Secombe, who was a member of the radio comedy troop The Goon Show, died in 2001 aged 79.


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