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Peter Edward Cook

Peter Cook in the 1967 film Bedazzled.
Born Peter Edward Cook
17 November 1937(1937-11-17)
Torquay, Devon, England
Died 9 January 1995 (aged 57)
Hampstead, London, England
Occupation Comedian, satirist, writer
Years active 1958–1994
Spouse(s) Wendy Snowden (1963-1971)
Judy Huxtable (1973-1989)
Lin Chong (1989-1995)

Peter Edward Cook (17 November 1937 – 9 January 1995) was a British satirist, writer and comedian. An extremely influential figure within British comedy, he is widely regarded as the leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He has been described by Stephen Fry as 'the funniest man who ever drew breath'.

Cook is very closely associated with the anti-establishment style of comedy that first emerged in Britain and the USA in the late 1950s.

Contents

Life

Cook was born at "Shearbridge", Middle Warberry Road, Torquay, Devon, the only son and eldest of the three children of Alexander Edward (Alec) Cook (d. 1984), a colonial civil servant, and his wife (Ethel Catherine) Margaret, née Mayo (d. 1994). He was educated at Radley College and later Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read French and German. Cook meant to become a career diplomat, but unfortunately Britain "had run out of colonies", as he put it. Although largely politically apathetic for most of his life, he did join Cambridge University Liberal Club.[1] It was at Pembroke that he performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the prestigious Cambridge Footlights Club, of which he became President in 1960.

While still at university, Cook wrote professionally for Kenneth Williams, for whom he created a successful West End revue show called One Over the Eight, before finding prominence in his own right as part of a four man group performing a satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, together with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore.

The show became a major success in London after being first performed at the Edinburgh Festival, and included Cook impersonating the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. This was one of the first occasions that satirical political mimicry had been attempted in live theatre, and caused some considerable shock amongst audiences. During one performance, Macmillan himself was in the theatre, and having spotted him Cook departed from his script and directly attacked him verbally.[2]

1960s

With his star in the ascendant, in 1961 he opened The Establishment Club at 18 Greek Street in Soho which gave him the opportunity to present fellow comedians in a nightclub setting, including the highly controversial American Lenny Bruce. Of the club's purpose, Cook said it was to be a satirical venue modelled on "those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War"[3]; more importantly, its status as a private, members-only venue exempted it from the censorship restrictions that then applied to public stage presentations. Cook befriended and supported Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British solo career at the club. Humphries would comment in his autobiography My Life As Me that he found Cook's lack of interest in art and literature rather off-putting. Cook's chiselled looks and languid manner led Humphries to observe that whereas most people take after their father or mother, Cook reminded one of one's auntie. Dudley Moore's jazz trio played in the basement of the club regularly for many years during the early 1960s.

In 1962, the BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on The Establishment Club, but it was not picked up straightaway, and Cook went to New York for a year to perform in Beyond The Fringe on Broadway. When he returned, he discovered that the pilot had been re-fashioned in his absence as the hit television show That Was The Week That Was and had made a star out of David Frost, something that Cook later freely admitted he resented. The 1960s satire boom was coming to a close and Cook quipped that Britain would "sink into the sea under the weight of its own giggling". He later complained that David Frost's success was largely based on copying Cook's own stage persona, and remarked that his only regret in life had been once saving Frost from drowning (an actual event).

He married the socially well-connected Wendy Snowden in 1963, with whom he had two daughters, Lucy and Daisy (now working as an abstract painter) The marriage ended in divorce in 1970, in part because of Cook's infidelity.[citation needed]

Cook expanded the scope of television comedy with associates such as Eleanor Bron, John Bird, and John Fortune, and pushed the previously restricted boundaries of the BBC. Cook's first regular television spot was on Granada Television's Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, where he featured his most enduring comic character: the static, dour, and monotonal E.L. Wisty, whom Cook had originally conceived for Radley College's Marionette Society.

His comedy partnership with Dudley Moore led to the popular and critically fêted television show Not Only... But Also. This was initially intended by the BBC as a vehicle for Dudley Moore's musical talents, but when Moore invited Cook to write sketches and appear with him, the show suddenly became hugely popular. Using few props, they created a unique style of dry and absurd television which was immediately successful and found a place in the mainstream, ultimately lasting for three seasons. Here Cook showcased his characters, such as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and the pair's Pete and Dud. Other memorable sketches include "Superthunderstingcar", a send-up of the Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows and Cook's pastiche of 1960s trendy arts documentaries — satirised in a parodic TV segment on Greta Garbo.

Despite the show's cult status, by the early 1970s the BBC had decided to erase most of the master videotapes of the series with a view to reusing them, because of the expense of the format. This was common UK television practice at the time, when agreements with actors' and musicians' unions limited the number of repeats. (The policy of wiping recordings ceased in 1978.) When Cook learned the series was to be destroyed, he offered to buy the tapes from the BBC but was refused because of copyright issues. He then suggested that he purchase new tapes, so that the BBC would have no need to erase the originals, but inexplicably this was also turned down.

Of the original programmes, only eight of the twenty-two complete episodes survive complete. These comprise the first series with the exception of the fifth and seventh episodes, the first and last episodes of the second series, and the Christmas special. Of the 1970 third series, only the various film inserts (usually of outdoor scenes) still survive. The BBC later recovered some of the shows by approaching overseas television networks and buying back copies that had not yet been destroyed. A compilation of six half-hour programmes, The Best of What's Left of Not Only...But Also was shown on television in 1990, and was released on VHS and DVD.

In 1968, Cook and Moore briefly switched to the commercial channel ATV to produce a series of four one-hour programmes entitled Goodbye Again, based on the "Pete and Dud" characters. The duo knew they were the rationale for the series and as a result, ignored suggestions from the director and other cast. Sketches were therefore often drawn out to fill the running time. With no real interest in the show and a developing problem with alcohol, Cook would also rely on cue cards and ended up garbling parts of the script, forcing Moore to ad-lib. Nonetheless, the series does contain some notable items, including a reprise of the Pete and Dud 'Greta Garbo' routine and a sketch in which the pair mostly play themselves, discussing the breakdowns of their respective marriages. The show was not a popular success, owing in part to the publication of the ITV listings magazine, TV Times, being suspended because of a strike. John Cleese was a supporting cast member and elements of the series can be seen in the early Monty Python programmes of the following year.

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore acted in films together, beginning with The Wrong Box in 1966. Their best work in the medium was the cult comedy Bedazzled (1967), now widely regarded as a comedy classic, but which was not financially successful at the time. Directed by Stanley Donen, the film's story is credited to Cook and Moore jointly, and its screenplay to Cook alone. A comic parody of the Faust story, it starred Cook as George Spigott (The Devil) who tempts a frustrated, short-order chef called Stanley Moon (Moore) with the promise of gaining his heart's desire — the love of the unattainable beauty Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron) — in exchange for his soul, but repeatedly tricks him in a variety of ways. The film features cameo appearances by Barry Humphries ('Envy') and Raquel Welch ('Lust'). Moore's jazz trio backed Cook on the theme, a parodic anti-love song, which Cook delivers in a monotonous, deadpan voice, and which includes his now classic put-down, "You fill me with inertia". Moore's Hollywood stardom in the 1970s and 1980s prompted occasional barbed comments from his former comedy partner.

1970s

In 1970, Cook took over a project initiated by David Frost for a satirical film about an opinion pollster who rises to become President of Great Britain. Under Cook's guidance, the character became modelled on Frost himself. The resulting film, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, was not a great commercial success, although the cast contained many notable names of the period.

Though he was eventually to become a favourite on the British chat show circuit, his own effort at hosting one in 1971, entitled Where Do I Sit? was generally agreed by the critics to have been a huge disappointment. The BBC seem to have agreed: he was replaced after only two episodes by Michael Parkinson (for the next series the show bore Parkinson's name, and was the beginning of his career as a chat show host). Cook would take sweet revenge when Parkinson asked him what his ambitions were (schoolboyishly inquiring whether he had any "large ones") by replying "[...] in fact, my ambition is to shut you up altogether."

Cook provided financial backing for the satirical magazine Private Eye, supporting the publication through a number of difficult periods, particularly when the magazine was punished financially in the wake of a number of high-profile libel trials. Cook both invested his own money and solicited for investment from his showbusiness friends and colleagues. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of The Establishment Club. Towards the end of the 1960s, Cook's developing alcoholism placed a strain on his personal and professional relationships. He and Moore fashioned sketches from Not Only....But Also and Goodbye Again with new material into the stage revue Behind the Fridge. This toured Australia in 1972 before transferring to New York in 1973 as Good Evening. In front of audiences during the extended stage runs, Cook frequently appeared drunk and incapable, to the consternation of Dudley Moore. However, Good Evening won the pair Tony and Grammy Awards. When its run finished, Moore announced he was staying in the U.S. to pursue a solo career. In 1973, Cook married the actress Judy Huxtable.

Later, the more risqué humour of the Pete and Dud characters was taken to its furthest extent on long-playing records under the names "Derek and Clive". The first such recording was initiated by Cook purely to alleviate the boredom of a long Broadway run of Good Evening, and used material that was conceived years before for the two characters but was then considered far too outrageous. One of these audio recordings was also filmed, and the long-running tensions between the duo are seen to rise to the surface. Originally intended for their own amusement, Chris Blackwell circulated bootleg copies to friends, and they soon gained a cult following. The popularity of the bootleg recording convinced Cook that it would be profitable to release it commercially, although Moore was initially reluctant to agree to this, fearing that his recently achieved fame as a Hollywood movie star would be undermined by the tape's outrageous content. Two further Derek and Clive albums were released, the last accompanied by a film.

In 1979, Cook recorded comedy-segments which were released as b-sides to the Sparks 12" singles "Number One In Heaven" and "Tryouts For The Human Race". The combination was not so surprising, for the latter's main songwriter Ron Mael would often start off with a banal situation in his lyrics, and then go off at surreal tangents à la Cook and the even zanier S.J. Perelman. During this time he was also loosely involved with the Anti-Nazi League, and was a referee at a five-a-side football match organised by the ANL's Tottenham Hotspur branch, Spurs Against The Nazis in 1978.

Performances for Amnesty International

Cook made noteworthy appearances at the first three of the fund-raising galas staged by humourists John Cleese and Martin Lewis on behalf of Amnesty International. The series of benefits were retrospectively dubbed The Secret Policeman's Balls though it wasn't until the third show in 1979 that the Secret Policeman's Ball title was used. He performed on all three nights of the first show in April 1976, A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick), both as an individual performer and as a member of the cast of Beyond The Fringe, which reunited for the first time since the 1960s. He also appeared in a Monty Python sketch taking the place of Eric Idle who did not take part in the performances. Cook was prominently featured on the cast album of the show (which carried the same title) and in the film of the event, which was titled Pleasure At Her Majesty's. He was similarly prominent in the second Amnesty gala held in May 1977, An Evening Without Sir Bernard Miles. (It was retitled The Mermaid Frolics for the cast album and TV special.) Cook performed monologues and skits with Terry Jones.

In June 1979, Cook performed on all four nights of The Secret Policeman's Ball - memorably teaming for a skit with John Cleese. Cleese was quoted as saying that he was thrilled to be working with someone he admired so much, and can be seen nearly "corpsing" at Cook during much of the "Interesting Facts" sketch, which opened both the stage show and the resulting film. Cook performed a couple of solo pieces and a skit with old friend Eleanor Bron. He also led the ensemble in the grand finale - the "End Of The World" sketch from Beyond The Fringe.

In response to a critical barb in The Daily Telegraph's review of the show's first night - complaining that the show consisted mostly of recycled material, Cook wrote a savage satire of the summing-up by the Judge (Mr Justice Cantley) in the just-concluded trial of former Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe — a summary that had attracted almost universal condemnation for its blatant bias in favour of Thorpe. Cook performed it for the first time that same night (Friday 29 June - the third of the four nights) and reprised it the following night. The nine-minute opus — "Entirely a Matter for You" — is considered by many fans and critics to be one of the finest works of Cook's career. Cook and show producer Martin Lewis rushed out a 12" mini-album on Virgin Records titled Here Comes the Judge: Live of the live performance together with three specially-recorded studio tracks that further lampooned the Thorpe trial.[4][5]

Although unable to take part in the 1981 gala, Cook supplied the narration used over the animated opening title sequence of the 1982 film of the show. With Martin Lewis, he co-wrote and voiced a series of radio commercials used to advertise the film in the UK. He also hosted a spoof film awards ceremony that was part of the World Première of the film in London in March 1982.

Following Cook's successful 1987 stage reunion with Dudley Moore for the annual U.S. benefit for the homeless, Comic Relief (not related to the UK Comic Relief benefits), Cook repeated the reunion for a British audience by performing with Moore at the 1989 Amnesty benefit The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball. The crowd's positive reaction to seeing Cook and Moore reunited was evident in each of their appearances together during the show.

Consequences album

There is a cult following among some Cook fans for a little-remembered project that he was involved with in the 1970s. This was his participation – playing multiple roles – on the 1977 concept album Consequences, written and produced by former 10cc members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. A mixture of spoken-word comedy and progressive rock music with an environmental subtext, Consequences started out as a single that Godley and Creme planned to make to demonstrate their new invention, an electric guitar effect called The Gizmo, which they had developed during their tenure in 10cc. The project gradually grew into a triple LP boxed set. The comedy sections of the album were originally intended to be performed by an all-star cast including Spike Milligan and Peter Ustinov, but after meeting Cook, Godley and Creme realised that he could perform most of the parts himself.

The storyline centres on the impending divorce of ineffectual Englishman Walter Stapleton (Cook) and his French wife Lulu (Judy Huxtable). While meeting with their respective lawyers — the bibulous Mr Haig and overbearing Mr Pepperman (also both played by Cook) — the encroaching global catastrophe interrupts proceedings with a series of bizarre and mysterious happenings that are somehow linked to Mr Blint (Cook), a musician and composer living in the apartment below Haig's office, both of which are connected by a large hole in the floor.

Released just as punk was sweeping the UK, the hugely ambitious concept album was a total commercial failure and was savaged by critics, but it gathered (and retains) a small but dedicated cult following. Interestingly, the script and storyline contain many elements that appear to be drawn from Cook's own life – his second wife, actress Judy Huxtable, plays Walter's wife, Lulu. Cook's own problems with alcohol are comically mirrored in Haig's constant drinking, and there is a clear parallel between the fictional divorce of Walter and Lulu and Cook's own messy divorce from his first wife, Wendy. The voice and accent Cook used for the character of Stapleton are remarkably similar to that of Cook's former Beyond the Fringe colleague, Alan Bennett and a recent book on Cook's comedy, How Very Interesting, speculates that the characters Cook plays in Consequences are broad caricatures of the four Beyond The Fringe cast members – the alcoholic Haig represents Cook, the tremulous Stapleton is Alan Bennett, the parodically Jewish Pepperman is Miller, and the pianist Blint represents Moore.[6]

1980s

In 1980, spurred by his former partner Dudley Moore's growing film star status, Cook moved briefly to Hollywood and appeared as an uptight English butler in a short-lived U.S. television sitcom The Two of Us, also making cameo appearances in a couple of undistinguished films. In 1980, Cook starred alongside a host of celebrities in the LWT special Peter Cook & Co.. The show included several comedy sketches, including a Tales of the Unexpected spoof "Tales Of The Much As We Expected". This involved Cook as Roald Dahl, explaining that his name had actually been Ronald before he dropped the "n". The cast included John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Beryl Reid, Paula Wilcox and Terry Jones. The show has never been repeated since its first airing.

Cook made an appearance as Richard III in 1983, both before and after death, in "The Foretelling", the first episode of Blackadder. In 1986 he appeared as a sidekick to Joan Rivers on her UK talk show. He appeared as Mr Jolly in 1987 in The Comic Strip Presents' Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, playing an assassin who covers the sound of his murders by playing Tom Jones records at full volume. Cook also appeared in The Princess Bride that year, as the "Impressive Clergyman". Also that year he spent time working with Martin Lewis on a political satire about the upcoming 1988 U.S. presidential elections for HBO, but the script went unproduced. During this production, Lewis suggested that Cook team up with Dudley Moore for the U.S. "Comic Relief" telethon for the homeless. The duo successfully reunited and performed their classic "One Leg Too Few" sketch. Moore attended Cook's memorial service in London in May 1995 and he and Lewis teamed up to present a two-night memorial for Cook in Los Angeles the following November, scheduled to mark Cook's birthday.

In 1988, Cook appeared as a contestant on the popular improvisation comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Cook was declared the winner of the episode, his prize being to read the end credits in the style of the host's choosing, which was that of a New York cab driver - a character which he'd already portrayed in Peter Cook & Co.. He was an avid media follower, reading nearly all the British daily newspapers and following TV and radio programmes with vigour.

He was an occasional caller to Clive Bull's night-time phone-in show on LBC in London, where, using the pseudonym "Sven from Swiss Cottage" he would entertain listeners with his complaints and musings on love, loneliness and herrings, all delivered in a mock Norwegian accent. Running jokes through these conversations included Sven's attempts to find his estranged wife, which often saw him claim to telephone the show from all over the world, and his hatred of the Norwegian medias' obsession with fish (while remaining totally oblivious to his own apparent obsession with fish). While Bull was clearly aware that Sven was fictional, he played along with the joke, and claimed he did not know Sven's true identity until much later.

Following Cook's death, some recordings were issued of him chatting with his Hampstead neighbour and fellow Clive Bull regular, the London eccentric Rainbow George Weiss, mostly about George's political plans for Peter within his Vote for Yourself Rainbow Dream Ticket party, which Cook tolerated with amused disdain. According to Cook's biographer Harry Thompson, Weiss tried repeatedly to persuade Cook to stand for parliament, but Cook always refused. In the last few years of his life, Cook had a lower public profile but maintained a robust social life. He was far more concerned with simply enjoying his life than in pursuing traditional career goals. He once famously said, "I ran out of ambition at the age of 27..."

Revival

In late 1989 Cook married the Malaysian-born property developer Chiew Lin Chong in Torbay, Devon. This marriage brought a beneficial change in the direction of his life, as he reduced his drinking and for a time was a teetotaler. He lived alone in an 18th-century house in Hampstead, once owned by H.G. Wells. His third wife lived in another house 100 yards (91 m) away.

Cook returned as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling for an appearance with Ludovic Kennedy in A Life in Pieces. The series of twelve five- to seven-minute interviews saw Sir Arthur recounting snippets of his life loosely based on the Twelve Days of Christmas. A set of unscripted interviews with Cook as Streeb-Greebling and satirist Chris Morris were recorded in autumn of 1993 and broadcast as Why Bother on BBC Radio 3, less than a year before Cook's death. In a later interview,[7] Morris described them as follows:

It was a very different style of improvisation from what I'd been used to, working with people like Steve Coogan, Doon Mackichan and Rebecca Front, because those On the Hour and The Day Today things were about trying to establish a character within a situation, and Peter Cook was really doing 'knight's move' and 'double knight's move' thinking to construct jokes or ridiculous scenes flipping back on themselves, and it was amazing. I mean, I held out no great hopes that he wouldn't be a boozy old sack of lard with his hair falling out and scarcely able to get a sentence out, because he hadn't given much evidence that that wouldn't be the case. But, in fact, he stumbled in with a Safeways bag full of Kestrel lager and loads of fags and then proceeded to skip about mentally with the agility of a grasshopper. Really quite extraordinary.

On 17 December 1993, Cook made a memorable appearance on Clive Anderson Talks Back, showcasing four completely new characters -- biscuit tester and alien abductee Norman House, football manager and motivational speaker Alan Latchley, high court judge Sir James Beauchamp and rock legend Eric Daley. The following day he appeared on BBC2 performing links for Arena's "Radio Night". He also appeared, on 26 December, in the 1993 Christmas special of One Foot in the Grave ("One Foot in the Algarve"), playing a muckraking tabloid journalist. Many hoped these high-profile appearances marked the beginning of a revival for Cook, but before the end of the next year his mother died, and Cook returned to a life of heavy drinking. His own death, 13 months later at the age of 57 was officially reported as resulting from internal haemorrhaging.

Legacy

Cook's significance to modern British comedy is immense, and persists today: he is acknowledged as the main influence on a long stream of comedians who have followed him from the amateur dramatic clubs of British universities to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and thence to the radio and television studios of the BBC. Notable fans of Cook include all the members of Monty Python and The Goodies, and, more recently, the aforementioned Chris Morris. Some critics chose to see Cook's life as tragic, insofar as the brilliance he exhibited in his youth was not sustained in later years and did not fully lead to the recognition many thought he deserved, and in his lifetime Cook himself was constantly aware that some thought that he had not achieved his early potential. He was disdainful of this view, and stressed that had no particular desire to achieve sustained career success as traditionally measured. Instead, Cook assessed his own happiness by the quality of his personal friendships and his overall enjoyment of life. Eric Idle and Stephen Fry commented that Cook had not wasted his talent but rather that the newspapers had tried to waste him.

Several of his friends honored him with a dedication in the closing credits of Fierce Creatures, a 1997 comedy film written by John Cleese about a zoo in peril of being closed. It starred Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin. The dedication displays photos and the lifespan dates of Peter Cook and of British naturalist/humorist Gerald Durrell.[8]

Ten years after his death, in January 2005, Peter Cook was ranked number one in a list entitled The Comedian's Comedian, a poll of more than 300 comics, comedy writers, producers and directors throughout the English speaking world and shown on Channel 4 in the UK.[9] He finished ahead of other important, legendary comics such Groucho Marx, John Cleese, Eric Morecambe, Laurel and Hardy, Bill Hicks and Woody Allen. Coincidentally, the same week that programme was shown, Channel 4 broadcast Not Only But Always, a well-received television movie dramatising the relationship between Cook and Moore, with Welsh actor Rhys Ifans portraying Cook. At the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe a stage play, written by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde and examining the relationship from Moore's point of view, Pete and Dud: Come Again, was a sellout hit at the Assembly Rooms, before transferring to The Venue in London's West End in March 2006. English actor Tom Goodman-Hill played Cook.

At the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Goodbye - the (after)life of Cook & Moore by Jonathan Hansler and Clive Greenwood was presented at the Gilded Balloon. The play imagined the newly dead Moore meeting the already deceased Cook in Limbo which was also inhabited by other comic actors with whom they had worked, including Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, and Kenneth Williams. In May 2009 the play was seen again in London's West End at The Leicester Square Theatre (formerly "The Venue" and home to Pete and Dud: Come Again) with Jonathan Hansler as Cook, Adam Bampton Smith as Moore, and Clive Greenwood as everyone else.

A green plaque was unveiled jointly by Westminster City Council and The Heritage Foundation at the site of Cook's "The Establishment Club" in February 2009.[10]

Further reading

  • Harry Thompson (1998). Biography of Peter Cook. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-64969-0. 
  • Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (2003). Dud and Pete: The Dagenham Dialogues. Methuen. ISBN 978-0-413-77347-0. 
  • Robert Hewison (1983). Footlights!: A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy. Methuen London Ltd. ISBN 0-413-51150-2. 
  • Roger Wilmut (1980). From Fringe to Flying Circus: Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy 1960–1980. Eyre Methuen Ltd. ISBN 0-413-46950-6. 
  • Peter Cook Appreciation Society (2006). How Very Interesting!: Peter Cook's Universe And All That Surrounds It. Snowbooks. ISBN 1-905005-23-7. 
  • Alexander Games (1999). Pete & Dud: An Illustrated Biography. Andre Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-99642-7. 
  • Wendy Cook (2006). So Farewell Then: The Biography of Peter Cook. HarperCollins Entertainment. ISBN 0-00-722893-7. 
  • Lin Cook (2003). Something Like Fire: Peter Cook Remembered. Arrow Books. ISBN 0-09-946035-1. 
  • Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde (2006). Pete and Dud: Come Again. Methuen Drama. ISBN 0-413-77602-6. 
  • William Cook (2003). Tragically I was an only twin: the complete Peter Cook. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-31891-X ISBN 0-09-944325-2. 

Filmography

Amnesty

  • Pleasure at Her Majesty's (1976)
  • The Mermaid Frolics (1977)
  • The Secret Policeman's Ball
  • The Secret Policeman's Private Parts (1981)
  • The Best of Amnesty: Featuring the Stars of Monty Python (1999)

UK chart singles:-

  • "The Ballad Of Spotty Muldoon" (1965)
  • "Goodbye-ee" (1965) with Dudley Moore
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Adrian Slade
Footlights President
1958–1960
Succeeded by
Peter Bellwood

References

  1. ^ http://keynessociety.wordpress.com/about-the-keynes-society/
  2. ^ Cook as Macmillan: "...there's nothing I like better than to wander over to a theatre and sit there listening to a group of sappy, urgent, vibrant young satirists with a stupid great grin spread all over my silly face" - Tragically I Was an Only Twin p.51
  3. ^ Tom Lehrer interview
  4. ^ "Peter Cook". Phespirit.info. http://www.phespirit.info/pictures/heroes/p008_info.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083043/quotes
  6. ^ Peter Gordon, Dan Kieran Paul Hamilton (eds) - How Very Interesting: Peter Cook's Universe And All That Surrounds It (Matrix Media Services, 2006)
  7. ^ "The Establishment - The Spiggott - Chris Morris Interview". Stabbers.truth.posiweb.net. http://stabbers.truth.posiweb.net/stabbers/html/spiggott/morris.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  8. ^ 'Fierce Creatures' (1997).
  9. ^ a poll "Peter Cook the funniest". The Age. January 3, 2005. http://www.theage.com.au/news/People/Peter-Cook-the-funniest/2005/01/03/1104601276619.html a poll. 
  10. ^ "Peter Cook Blue Plaque Unveiling". The Heritage Foundation. http://www.theheritagefoundation.info/petercook.html. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I'd vote for any party that would say "I won't allow people to throw garbage all over me." But none of the parties seem to be particularly interested. That's why I formed the World Domination League.
Total domination of the world by 1958.

Peter Edward Cook (17 November 19379 January 1995) was an English satirist, writer and comedian who is widely regarded as the father of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He has frequently been referred to by modern British comedians as their greatest inspiration. He first achieved fame in the revue Beyond the Fringe.

Contents

Sourced

Stopping the GOVERNMENT from crawling up our pipes and listening to all we say.
E. L. Wisty for GOD.
  • You know, I go to the theatre to be entertained... I don’t want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction... I can get all that at home.
  • 1. Total domination of the world by 1958.
    2. Domination of the astral spheres quite soon too.
    3. The finding of lovely ladies for Spotty Muldoon within the foreseeable future.
    4. GETTING A NUCLEAR ARM to deter with.
    5. The bodily removal from this planet of C. P. Snow and Alan Freeman and their replacement with fine TREES.
    6. Stopping the GOVERNMENT from crawling up our pipes and listening to all we say.
    7. Training BEES for uses against foreign powers, and so on.
    8. Elimination of spindly insects and encouragement of lovely little newts who dance about and are happy.
    9. E. L. Wisty for GOD.
    • Aims in the Manifesto of The World Domination League by E. L. Wisty and Spotty Muldoon (1965)
  • I drift very easily into becoming E. L. Wisty. I’ve always felt very closely identified with that sort of personality. He is a completely lost creature, he never works, never moves, has no background and suspects everybody is peering at him and trying to get his secrets out of him. I've never met the man; he came out of me. I’d feel a lot easier if I’d met him and imitated him, as a matter of fact.
    • As quoted in Daily Express (7 February 1967), and in Tragically I Was an Only Twin : The Complete Peter Cook (2002) by William Cook, p. 58
  • I am blind, but I am able to read thanks to a wonderful new system known as broil. I'm sorry, I'll just feel that again.
    • "Blind", in Derek and Clive (Live) (1976)
  • I may have done some other things as good but I am sure none better. I haven't matured, progressed, grown, become deeper, wiser, or funnier. But then, I never thought I would.

E. L. Wisty

A role Cook played throughout his career, originally named "Mr. Boylett" in his college years, and then "Mr Arthur Grole" in his Beyond the Fringe years, he eventually named him E. L. Wisty for his appearances on On the Braden Beat in 1964.
Vote for EL Wisty and lovely nude ladies will come and dance with you.
I've always fancied being a tadpole expert. … You get invited to all the smart parties and social gatherings.
I saw an advertisement the other day for the secret of life...
Bleendreeble specialises in the universe. He doesn't branch out much beyond that. But he's quite interested in this limited field.
  • If there's one thing I can't bear, it's when hundreds of old men come creeping in through the window in the middle of the night and throw all manner of garbage over me. I can't bear that.
    • "The World Domination League" (1964)
  • I'd vote for any party that would say "I won't allow people to throw garbage all over me." But none of the parties seem to be particularly interested. That's why I formed the World Domination League. It's a wonderful league, the World Domination League. The aims, as published in the manifesto, are total domination of the world by 1958. That's what we're planning to do. We've had to revise it. We're hoping to bring a new manifesto out with a more realistic target.
    • "The World Domination League" (1964)
  • We shall move about in people's rooms and say, "Excuse me, we are the World Domination League. May we dominate you?" Then, if they say "Get out," of course we give up. Well, you have to give up if you're told to get out.
    • "The World Domination League" (1964)
  • Hitler was a very peculiar person wasn't he? He was another dominator you know — Hitler. And he was a wonderful ballroom dancer. Not many people know that. ... Of course Mrs Hitler was a charming woman, wasn't she? She's still alive, you know. I saw her down the Edgware Road only the other day. She'd just popped into the chemist's to buy something, and I saw her sign the cheque "Mrs Hitler" so I knew it was she. I tried to go up and talk to her, but she slipped away into the crowd. I was hoping she'd be able to come to the next meeting of the World Domination League. Not many people do.
    • "The World Domination League" (1964)
  • I've had some wonderful ideas for getting the dominating going. I've got some extremely subtle advertising slogans that should get the public behind us. Things like "Vote for EL Wisty and lovely nude ladies will come and dance with you." It's a complete lie, of course, but you can't afford to be too scrupulous if you're going to dominate the world.
    • "The World Domination League" (1964)
  • I've always wanted to be part of the royal family because there are great advantages to being royal. If you're royal, whatever you do is very interesting. Whatever you do, people are very interested in it. Even if you do something very boring, people are still interested in it. If a royal person does something extremely boring, people say, "Oh, isn't it interesting that he's doing something extremely boring." If I do something extremely boring, people say, "Oh how extremely boring" — its not so good.
    • "Royalty" (1964)
  • We've all got royal blood in our veins, you know. It's the best place for it in my view. We've all got a little bit of royal blood in our veins, we're all in line for the succession, and if nineteen million, four hundred thousand, two hundred and eight people die, I'll be king tomorrow. It's not very likely but its a nice thought and helps keep you going.
    • "Royalty" (1964)
  • I've always wanted to be an expert on tadpoles. I've always fancied being a tadpole expert. It's a wonderful life if you become and experty tadpoleous, as they are known in the trade. You get invited to all the smart parties and social gatherings.
    • "The Tadpole Expert" (1964)
  • I saw an advertisement the other day for the secret of life. It said "The secret of life can be yours for twenty-five shillings. Sent to Secret of Life Institute, Willesden." So I wrote away, seemed a good bargain, secret of life, twenty-five shillings. And I got a letter back saying, "If you think you can get the secret of life for twenty-five shillings, you don't deserve to have it. Send fifty shillings for the secret of life."
    • "Are You Spotty?" (1964)
  • If I did become Minister of Nudism, I'd be allowed to be on television every evening around nine thirty. I'd come on and say "Good evening. This is the Minister of Nudism. Take off your clothes and begin to dance about."
    • "Peace Through Nudism" (1964)
  • Poor old Spotty Muldoon. He thought of splitting the atom the other day. If only he could have had the idea about thirty years ago, he'd have made a bloody fortune.
    • "The Man Who Invented The Wheel" (1964)
  • I've been reading a very interesting book recently. It's called The Universe and All That Surrounds It by T J Bleendreeble. It's an extremely good book about it. It's about seventy pages long, so it's fairly comprehensive about the whole thing and it's fairly interesting. Bleendreeble specialises in the universe. He doesn't branch out much beyond that. But he's quite interested in this limited field.
    • "Food For Thought" (1964)
  • If a dog starts biting you, you can't kick it up the throat like it deserves. People always say "Oh dear, poor little dog, he was only trying to be friendly. That's the way he tries to be friendly, sniffing at your ankles and biting you, you cruel, wicked man."
    • "Man's Best Friend" (1964)

Beyond the Fringe (1960 - 1966)

I would much prefer to be a judge than a coal miner because of the absence of falling coal.
  • I could have been a Judge, but I never had the Latin for the judgin'. I never had it, so I'd had it, as far as being a judge was concerned... I would much prefer to be a judge than a coal miner because of the absence of falling coal.
    • "Sitting on the Bench" (1961)
  • I've always been after the trappings of great luxury. But all I've got hold of are the trappings of great poverty. I've got hold of the wrong load of trappings, and a rotten load they are too, ones I could have very well done without.
    • "Sitting on the Bench" (1961)
  • I would like to like to make one thing clear at the very outset and that is, when you speak of a train robbery, this involved no loss of train, merely what I like to call the contents of the train, which were pilfered. We haven't lost a train since 1946, I believe it was — the year of the great snows when we mislaid a small one.
    • "The Great Train Robbery" (1964)
  • We believe this to be the work of thieves, and I'll tell you why. The whole pattern is very reminiscent of past robberies where we have found thieves to be involved. The tell-tale loss of property — that's one of the signs we look for.
    • "The Great Train Robbery" (1964)
  • The leg division, Mr Spiggot. You are deficient in it to the tune of one. Your right leg, I like. I like your right leg, it's a lovely leg for the role. That's what I said when I saw it come in. I said, "that's a lovely leg for the role". I've got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is — neither have you. You fall down on your left.
    • "One Leg Too Few" (1964) involving a one-legged man auditioning for the role of Tarzan.

Not Only... But Also (1965 - 1970)

I could see her knuckles all white, saying "Peter, Peter". You know how those bloody Swedes go on.
  • Well, it's always very difficult to say what prompts anybody to do anything, let alone getting underwater and teaching ravens to fly. But I think it probably all dates back to a very early age, when I was quite a young fellow. My mother, Lady Beryl Streeb-Greebling, you know, the wonderful dancer — 107 tomorrow and still dancing — she came up to me in the conservatory — I was pruning some walnuts — and she said "Arthur" — I wasn't Sir Arthur in those days — she said "Arthur, if you don't get underwater and start teaching ravens to fly, I'll smash your stupid face off," and I think it was this that sort of first started my interest in the whole business of getting them underwater.
    • "Ravens" (1965)
  • The thing that makes you know that Vernon Ward is a good painter is if you look at his ducks, you can see the eyes follow you around the room.
    • "At The Art Gallery" (1965)

Cook: I had the same bloody trouble about two nights ago. I come in, about half past eleven at night. I come in, I get into bed, you see, feeling quite sleepy. I could feel the lids of me eyes beginning to droop, you see — a bit of droop in the eyes. I was about to drop off when suddenly — tap, tap, tap at the bloody window pane. I looked out. You know who it was?
Dudley Moore: Who?
Cook: Bloody Greta Garbo. Bloody Greta Garbo, stark naked save for a shortie nightie, hanging on to the window sill, and I could see her knuckles all white, saying "Peter, Peter". You know how those bloody Swedes go on.
  • "Film Stars" (1965)

Bedazzled (1967)

Though the entire screenplay is credited to Cook, lines quoted here are only those where he is speaking as "George Spiggott" (The Devil).
What terrible sins I have working for me. I suppose it's the wages.
Apart from the way He moves, what's God really like? I mean, what colour is He?
  • You fill me with inertia.
  • You realize that suicide's a criminal offense — In less enlightened times they'd have hung you for it.
  • What terrible sins I have working for me. I suppose it's the wages.
  • It's the standard contract. Gives you seven wishes in accordance with the mystic rules of life. Seven Days of the Week, Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Seas, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...
  • Now, then, what'd you like to be first? Prime Minister? Oh, no — I've made that deal already.
  • The garden of Eden was a boggy swamp just south of Croydon. You can see it over there.
  • There was a time when I used to get lots of ideas... I thought up the Seven Deadly Sins in one afternoon. The only thing I've come up with recently is advertising.
  • Job was what you'd technically describe as a loony.
  • In the words of Marcel Proust — and this applies to any woman in the world — if you can stay up and listen with a fair degree of attention to whatever garbage, no matter how stupid it is that they're coming out with, til ten minutes past four in the morning... you're in.
  • Just putting a tiny little ventilation hole in this oil tanker.
  • Tell God not to go away. I'll be back in a minute.
  • I've done a good deed. I gave that little twit his soul back. Wasn't that generous?
  • All right, you great git, you've asked for it. I'll cover the world in Tastee-Freez and Wimpy Burgers. I'll fill it with concrete runways, motorways, aircraft, television, automobiles, advertising, plastic flowers, frozen food and supersonic bangs. I'll make it so noisy and disgusting that even you'll be ashamed of yourself! No wonder you've so few friends; you're unbelievable!

Dialog with Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) :

Stanley Moon: You're a nutcase! You're a bleedin' nutcase!
George Spiggott: They said the same of Jesus Christ, Freud, and Galileo.
Stanley Moon: They said it of a lot of nutcases too!
George Spiggott: You're not as stupid as you look are you, Mr. Moon?

Stanley Moon: Here, my ice lolly's melted. You really must be the Devil.
George Spiggott: Incarnate. How d'you do?

Stanley Moon: I thought you were called Lucifer.
George Spiggott: I know. "The Bringer of the Light" it used to be. Sounded a bit poofy to me.

George Spiggott: Everything I've ever told you has been a lie. Including that.
Stanley Moon: Including what?
George Spiggott: That everything I've ever told has been a lie. That's not true.
Stanley Moon: I don't know what to believe.
George Spiggott: Not me, Stanley, believe me!

Stanley Moon: Apart from the way He moves, what's God really like? I mean, what colour is He?
George Spiggott: He's all colours of the rainbow, many-hued.
Stanley Moon: But He is English, isn't He?
George Spiggott: Oh yes. Very upper class.

The Princess Bride (1987)

As the "Impressive Clergyman"
  • Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam.
  • And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah —
  • Have you the wing?

Quotes about Cook

Oh dear. I find I'm watching television that night....
  • Being British in this part of the century meant living in the country that had Peter Cook in it. There are wits and there are clowns in comedy, I suppose. Peter was a wit, it goes without saying, but he was funny in an almost supernatural way that has never been matched by anyone I've met or even heard about. It wasn't to do with facial expression or epigrammatic wit, or cattiness or rant or anger or technique: he had funniness in the same way that beautiful people have beauty or dancers have line and grace. He had an ability to make people gasp and gasp and gasp for breath like landed fish.
  • I'll leave with a story whose victim, Sir David Frost, won't mind it being told, because he tells it himself. David Frost rang Peter Cook up some years ago. "Peter, I'm having a little dinner party on behalf of Prince Andrew and his new bride-to-be Sarah Ferguson. I know they'd love to meet you, big fans; Be super if you could make it: Wednesday the twelfth." "Hang on... I'll just check my diary." Pause and rummaging and leafing through diary noises. And then Peter said "Oh dear. I find I'm watching television that night."
  • It is a sad fact that when people are really enjoying themselves and laughing immoderately, they can afterwards remember very little of the conversation, very few of the jokes. There was the famous occasion when Peter addressed a group of revellers at a lunch celebrating 25 years of Private Eye. Almost everyone who was there, myself included, will tell you it was the funniest, most brilliant speech they had ever heard. But ask us to recall the jokes and there will be a complete blank. Peter's funniest performances were generally of this impromptu, unscripted variety.
  • He got used early to the adulation of a wide public and eventually decided that he could do without it; long before the end, fame had to chase him far harder than he chased it. But among his fellow practitioners his lustre was undimmed, unequalled. and unchallenged. ... Just as the astronauts riding up on their rockets all worshipped Chuck Yeager, the jet pilot who never joined them in space because he flew too well with wings, so the media millionaires all knew that Cook was the unsurpassable precursor who had done it all before they did, and done it better.
  • He wasn't just a genius, he had the genius's impatience with the whole idea of doing something again. He reinvented an art form, exhausted its possibilities, and just left it. There is always something frightening about that degree of inventiveness... He didn't lose his powers. He just lost interest in proving that he possessed them.
  • The first time I saw Peter what made the impression was the visual content of what he and Dudley Moore were doing. It was Not Only, But Also..., and Pete and Dud were dressed up as nuns and were bouncing up and down on a trampoline. I rolled off my seat. I thought I'd ever seen anything so hilarious or so surreal or so... well... beautiful. I spent the next four or five years trying to emulate that sort of visual surprise.
  • I realised what everyone else had been talking about: the brilliance of Peter's humour. It was brilliant and it was luminous. And it was... easy. Not easy for you and me to come to... but easy for him. It just rolled out of him... almost as if he didn't need to think about it.
  • I remember being moved to tears when Peter said: "I know I was funny but I know I won't improve, I won't get any better". I was lucky to be around when he was at his peak. Verbally he was the most witty man that I have ever come across and strangely inventive.
  • He's one of those people who is completely and utterly irreplaceable. One of the things he did was to form the basis of what one would call the new comedy of the 1960s and 1970s. His achievement is absolutely extraordinary.
  • Obviously, he was the first — he was the Governor. Right from the start with those very precocious sketches for the Cambridge Footlights and through Beyond the Fringe, he was an exceptional talent... Every 10 years or so you always get a new generation of comedians but they all acknowledge their debt to Peter.

External links

Wikipedia
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Simple English

Peter Cook (17 November 1937 – 9 January 1995) was a satirist, writer and comedian. He was born in Devon and became famous when he appeared in a stage show called Beyond the Fringe in 1960.

He later continued working with another star of Beyond the Fringe called Dudley Moore. Two of the things they did together were Not Only... But Also and later Derek and Clive. They also appeared in films like the original Bedazzled.

Cook later helped start the magazine Private Eye. He also was involved with comedy performances for Amnesty International.

Although he died in 1995, he is still regarded as a major influence in British comedy.








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