Peter Cook & Company

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Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:46 am

I've managed to locate only a few fragments of old ATU tributes to the genius of the late English satirist Peter Cook.

The odd thing here is the parallel between the fate of ATU and what happened to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's groundbreaking 1960's TV series "Not Only...But Also", which was largely deleted by the BBC in order to recycle the original tapes for the recording of weather reports and horse shows.

Cook actually offered to BUY the tapes of this show off the BBC with his own money, but the nasty bureaucrats refused to entertain so logical an idea.

Today only fragments of "Not Only...But Also..." remain.


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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:53 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVvZTHCDm-s
Cook & Moore's At the Art Gallery sketch:





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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:49 pm

A selection of the best Cook books:


Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook.

Here's a review:


Peter Cook and the Genesis of Consequences

A review of Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook, published 1997 by Hodder and Stoughton in the UK.
ISBN 0 340 64968 2

The British humourist Peter Cook was born in Torquay on 17th November 1937. When he died on 9th January 1995 the media generally gave the impression that he had not lived up to the promise of his genius. That's far from certain, but he was certainly one of the funniest Englishmen who ever lived.

He is best known for his partnership with Dudley Moore, in the sixties BBC TV series Not Only... But Also as Pete and Dud, and later as Derek and Clive. He was also a member of the cast of the ground-breaking satirical revue Beyond the Fringe with Dudley, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.

In the early sixties, Cook did extremely well out of the 'satire boom', opening the Establishment Club in Soho, London. The club eventually went bust, and his film career came to nothing - he was a masterful comic performer and writer but couldn't act. He had also long nurtured a desire to be a pop star - despite his total lack of musical talent. This is reflected in Consequences, when Mr Blint talks about pop music:

"I also mentioned that though my musical orientation is more Bach than Beach Boys, I do take an interest in the world of popular music. I'm something of an expert, but can be fallible. I remember being surprised about Gene Chandler and 'The Duke of Earl'. I never saw that as chart material. The lyrics meant little to me: Duke, duke, duke, duke of Earl, duke, duke..."

Indeed, Peter understood pop music and its fickle ways only too well. In the film Bedazzled (a reworking of Faust which speaks volumes about his relationship with Dudley Moore), Peter appears in a TV pop show as Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations. His dull monotonous dirge 'I don't love you / leave me alone / I'm self contained / Just go away' attracts hoards of adoring girls away from Dudley Moore's previous sweeter pop turn. Cook's performance is somewhat reminiscent of Blint's performance of 'The Duke of Earl' in Consequences.

Cook's career had taken something of a nosedive by 1977, and he had become increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol. Given this fact, it seems amazing to me that he made one of the characters in Consequences, Mr Haig, an alcoholic. Cook's contributions to the LP were fitted in between filming of Paul Morrisey's disastrous Hound of the Baskervilles. Harry Thompson quotes Kevin Godley:

"Most of the time we spent during that album we were stoned out of our minds on various substances, both Lol Creme, myself and Peter... We were never totally in sync because Lol and I would work until quite late, one, two or three in the morning, and get up quite late. Peter was an early riser, he'd be up and around by eight, bathed, showered, fresh as a daisy. And he'd be in the studio ready to boogie by the time we staggered downstairs for breakfast at half-eleven, looking like shit. By the time we finally came to, he was going out of it, because he'd start drinking around midday. He was going down as we were coming up, so we'd meet for maybe an hour in the middle."

It wasn't just his own alcholism that inspired Cook - the chief theme of a messy divorce drew on his divorce from his first wife Wendy. Thompson shows how in his later work, Cook could plunder his personal life for material - and his second wife Judy Huxtable played Lulu. Twelve years later he was to be divorced from Judy.

Thompson compares the use of the number 17 in Consequences with Douglas Adams' later use of the number 42 in his radio series The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, and concludes that Peter Cook simply used it because he couldn't think of any other way to resolve the storyline, whereas Adams 'ingeniously set up' his numerical punchline throughout the plot. I'd take issue with that - the number 17 doesn't try to tie the plot of Consequences together, as its mystical significance is made clear at an early stage.

Harry Thompson rates Consequences as as big a turkey in the music business as The Hound of the Baskervilles was in the movie business. He says 'today the record has a cult following, and - remarkably - its own website, its small but devoted fanbase dedicated to working out what it all means.' Remarkable!

Certainly Consequences was a commercial and critical flop. Kevin Godley is quoted as saying that the Sex Pistols and punk invalidated the entire project: '...it was such an incredible failure that that it forged a sort of bond between the people involved.' Peter Cook remained fiercely loyal to the project, asking a hostile Dutch journalist what he did with his time. 'Nothing' said the journalist. Cook said 'Well f*** off home and do it'.

There a few other (admittedly fairly tenuous) links between Peter Cook's life and work and Consequences. Fans of Roland the goldfish might be interested to note that Cook had a pet goldfish called Abe Ginsberg. He used to take Ginsberg to pro-celebrity golf touranments, placing his bowl alongside the tee so he could watch for infringements.

There was a sketch in Not Only... But Also featuring a 'dead' wife called Rosie - who turns out not to be dead, but living with a sailor in Frinton. This brings to mind Blint's monologue about his wife Rosie who died in the Blitz, and the song that follows.

Walter's musings on hang-gliding, and in particular his words about crosswinds and it not being 'a good day for a debut' echo an experience Cook had during the filming of The Bedsitting Room in 1968. He and Dudley Moore had to get in a car suspended from a balloon. The balloon expert said 'I wouldn't go up on a day like this', to which Cook replied that they were indeed going up on a day like this. The expert said 'we're at the mercy of the winds' at which point a gust of wind grabbed the balloon and threw them to the ground. One of Peter's knees was seriously injured, severely restricting his future sporting activities.

Harry Thompson's biography is extremely readable, and exhaustively researched. There is a slightly pointless chapter in the middle where he makes a half-hearted attempt to analyse Cook's comedy, but Thompson acknowledges that to dissect comedy is to murder it. The latter parts of the book chronicle Cook's battle with alcohol and his untimely death and make depressing reading. I get the impression that, like Orson Wells, Peter Cook did fulfill his potential - he just peaked very early in his career.


As I write this it is pouring with rain. There is a hole in our roof and it's letting in water. The water is dripping slowly and rhythmically into a bucket. Perhaps I should put Consequences on one more time...

Giles Booth, 17th January 1998
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

© 2008 Giles Booth / OtherMachines



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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:02 pm

An alternative take on Peter Cook from his first wife Wendy Snowden deals with the difficulties of living with genius:



A new Cook book
Peter's first wife breaks her silence

Peter Cook’s first wife Wendy is to publish her memoirs, breaking her 35-year silence over their tempestuous marriage.

So Farewell Then, which will be released in October, is described as ‘the untold life of Peter Cook’ and is said to show a new side to the comic and his alcoholism.

Wendy Snowden was a socialite and teenage art student when she met Cook in the early Sixties. They married in 1963 and she helped found the Establishment club and finance Private Eye.

She bore Peter his only children, two girls, but she says Cook’s alcoholism eventually drove her away. He also had an affair with actress Judy Huxtable, who would become his second wife.

‘I felt eventually I had to go my own way rather than stay with somebody who was that nihilistic,’ she said.

‘Alcohol stokes up the demons and a completely different person starts to emerge. He did know how to behave well, but it rotted into something else. At a certain point I thought, "This will be the end of me if I don't leave now."'

Finally Wendy took her daughters to Majorca to live on a farm and the couple eventually divorced a few years later in 1971.

Wendy has only very rarely spoken about her former husband. In 2002, she told the BBC One documentary At A Slight Angle to the Universe: ‘He really suffered. Nobody as sensitive as he was could help but suffer. Genius is also torture.’

She said she was driven to write the book because she was angry at how Cook was always portrayed as a bitter, cruel drunk.

‘Everyone else has had their say and it seems to me I do have something different to contribute,’ she said earlier this year. 'We were a good team at the time he was at his most creative.

'I would like to write a book, partly as catharsis for me, but also to correct this false impression.’

So Farewell Then will be published in the UK by HarperCollins.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:07 pm



Here'a a review:

One sunny day in the early 80’s I was wandering around the Upper Street area of Islington with a friend of mine. It was lunchtime, so we wandered into a pub. We got our drinks and wandered away from the bar. We wandered a bit further and heard laughter coming from a small room adjoining the main area of the pub. I recognised it as the kind of helpless, breathless laughter I used to have as a kid, when you couldn’t breathe for laughing, when it hurt your sides. We wandered over to the door of this room and looked inside. We wandered no more.
A man was talking to a group of his mates round a table. They were the ones bent double with laughter. The rest of the people in the room, ten or twelve of them, couldn’t help but hear what he was saying and they too were snorting and crying. He wasn’t saying particularly funny things. He was just chuntering about his mates, their wives, who was due to get the next drink.

At first we thought it was somebody doing a brilliant impression of Peter Cook. Then we realised it was Peter Cook.

I wish I’d taped it, or just written down some of what he’d said. But I didn’t. I just laughed and soon forgot the details. I’ve since realised that this is often the case with great comedy: style is more important than content.

I’ve always loved Peter Cook. I saw the great TV shows with Dudley Moore when they were first broadcast. I saw all the TV he did up to his death in 1995, including the tour de force on the Clive James show, when he played four different characters. I read all the books. I bought all the Derek and Clive albums. I judged people by how they reacted to those. Really.

The latest production from the team (group ? gang ?) who ran the Peter Cook Appreciation Society is ‘How Very Interesting’. It is a collection of interviews, mostly conducted by Paul Hamilton, with people who knew Cook during his life and career. For anyone who loves his humour, or agrees with Robyn Hitchcock, quoted here, that “he and The Beatles were the biggest single modifiers of the British class system,” this book is a must-have.

Revelations leap from almost every page.

Early on in his TV career, as Dick Clement says, shows were broadcast with hardly any interference from management. Can you imagine that happening today? Cook would have only a general idea of the script, if there was one, and flew by the seat of his pants. He got away with it, everyone agrees, because he was a genius. Alan Bennett said: “It takes me a week to produce one joke which I unfold in my hands like a butterfly. You sit down with Peter and twenty come out in the first minute.”

What I found consistently cheering about this book was that it emphasised the hard work and professionalism which Cook brought to all his enterprises. We’ve become used to thinking of him as a tragic drunk who let everyone down and wasted his talent in mewling self-indulgence. But you’ve only to look at the sheer volume and quality of work produced to see that couldn’t be the whole story.

Cook was an authentic great artist. In common with all great artists, his gift was to be able to see the world in a particular, original way and to transmit this vision into the imagination of others. To him the world was both tragic and absurd. This book, and the others produced by the same people since his death, will help to ensure that Cook’s status as a towering figure in twentieth century culture will remain secure.


© Laurence Inman


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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:14 pm



The Guardian's review:

Not only... but also

Nicholas Lezard on the inspired mania of the funniest man who ever drew breath, Peter Cook

The Guardian, Saturday 2 November 2002

Tragically, I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook
edited by William Cook
440pp, Century, £17.99

In 1967, Kenneth Tynan had Peter Cook, the Pinters and Princess Margaret and her husband round to watch Genet's Un Chant d'Amour. It turned out to be uncomfortably homoerotic. As they watched male members in all states of arousal on the screen, "silence was gelid in the room". As Tynan relates it, "suddenly the inspired Peter Cook came to the rescue. Chant d'Amour [sic] is a silent film, and he supplied a commentary, treating the movie as if it were a long commercial for Cadbury's Milk Flake Chocolate... within five minutes we were all helplessly rocking with laughter, Princess M included." The evening was rescued and afterwards, Tynan "hugged Peter for one of the funniest improvisations I have ever heard in my life".

So it's odd to come across one of Cook's 1977 Daily Mail columns, reprinted here. In response to a fatuous comment John Osborne had made, Cook wrote: "Try sitting up one night with strong black coffee and lots of glucose to read Look Back in Anger. Believe it or not, it's even duller now than it was then." That, in turn, should make you think of one of Tynan's two most famous pronouncements: that he could not love anyone who did not love Look Back in Anger . Well, clearly he loved Peter Cook. And clearly Cook did not love Look Back in Anger . So, if we assume that both of them meant what they said, what exactly is going on? Nothing more or less than the fact that Cook was very good at making himself loved by almost everybody he came into contact with.

This applies even if you never came into contact with him, and if this is nothing more than a distillation of fan-worship (Cook's extraordinary good looks when young didn't hurt), it is hard to shake off when contemplating him. Even the casual fan can be extraordinarily protective of his memory. When I was reading Harry Thompson's 1997 biography of Cook, it occurred to me that if one wanted to make a truly shocking aesthetic gesture, one that would more or less completely unite the country in outrage in a way which it becomes harder to do each year, the only available option would be to launch a sustained and vituperative attack on his memory. To say, in short, that he was not funny.

Such an assertion would not only be obtuse but would expose one to the outrage of any number of aggrieved friends and associates. As we are told on the front cover of Tragically, I Was an Only Twin, Cook was, according to Stephen Fry, "the funniest man who ever drew breath", and the turn of phrase makes us speculate that, for Cook, to draw breath involved the obligation to do so amusingly.

At which point you may consider the strain of being compelled to launch into a manic, inspired riff on whatever absurd detail it was that caught his attention in the first place. The key word here is "manic": it's not entirely sane, and the perpetrator can be seen as being in what is loosely called a fugue state, a mixture of trance and flight where the real world is gloriously annihilated in a continuous loop of inspiration. You should watch out for the kind of people who do it effortlessly and readily. They may need help. Cook certainly did, and the biography informs us of any number of times when he was in a state of unbearable, tearful misery. To contemplate his essence is to run up against the banal figure of the weeping clown.

One does not learn much about Cook's personality from this book. Even when he was around and people could look into his eyes as he spoke, working out what really made him tick was not easy. You may guess from the EL Wisty routines that he was acutely sensitive to the various textures of boredom, as much as he was driven by an almost uncontrollable need to entertain others. As for anything like political allegiance - admittedly a lousy indicator of personality - this was, in Cook's case, notoriously hard to determine. You can look here and elsewhere for convincing evidence that he supported each, or none, of the three major domestic parties - indeed, he joined them all at Cambridge. And if you were going to insult the prime minister in 1962, as he sits in the audience a few feet away from you, then it would be best to do it with some panache: "When I've a spare evening," said Cook, off the cuff, in his Macmillan voice, "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 old face." William Cook says this is "pretty mild" by today's standards, but I can't remember the last time a serving premier was comparably mocked to his or her face. Contemporary comedians in similar proximity to the PM scramble to lick the posterior. But if, as Peter Cook himself said many years later, this was a reflection of his affection for Macmillan, then maybe we can accept it as part and parcel of the way he tormented others, of being prodigal with others' tolerance so that he might be all the more intensely forgiven: playing records of Hitler speeches to Jewish friends, or teasing Dudley Moore about being a club-footed, talentless dwarf, for instance.

The strangest thing about this book, apart from its shockingly low standard of proof-reading, is that it reminds us that there were times when Cook wasn't very funny at all. If anyone can explain to me why the "Seductive Brethren" sketches he wrote for Private Eye are any good, I'd be grateful. Bear in mind that I am reduced to near-hysterical laughter by any number of his works, particularly Pete and Dud's "The Futility of Life" sketch and the line "that's when they get up to all their rubbish" in "Gospel Truth". And I have a soft spot for Derek and Clive, even the post- Derek and Clive Live albums, which most agree are witlessly scatological.

It's all in the delivery. Cook wrote very little that was meant to stay on the page. His sleeve notes were masterpieces of the form, but necessarily brief. His Daily Mail columns didn't even run for a year but were very funny. Occasional pieces on football reprinted here are worth reading, but they don't seem quite like the work of the funniest man in history. When you're writing comic prose, the only laughter you get to hear is your own. It is as if he needed to hear the reaction to know where to head, which is why his impromptu stuff, which will never be collated, is available to us only in paraphrase or blank testimony. So get this book - but be prepared to do the voices yourself.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011


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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:37 am



Amazon review:

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore - Leave this mortal coil on which we strut and fret our weary way, 21 May 2010
By Red on Black (Cardiff)

This review is from: Goodbye Again: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (Paperback)

The continuing genuine love and affection held for Morecambe and Wise cannot and should not be contested. Part of this is down to the fact that the archive of their shows both on BBC and ITV have been meticulously maintained and subsequently released. Sadly the same cannot be said for Peter Cook and Dudley Moore who in many ways equal and surpass Eric and Ern. But as William Cook states in the introduction to this wonderful anthology of the great duo's sketches "when it comes to Peter and Dudley's work, the general rule of thumb seems to be that the better it is, the more of it has been eradicated and the more difficult the remainder is to find". Indeed looking back even through the hindsight of the digital age the BBCs previous policy of wiping out countless TV classics sees much of "Not only...but also" lost to posterity in what was one of the great acts of cultural vandalism of the 20th century.

Yet isn't it strange whereas Morecambe and Wise stand as giants it is doubtful whether their influence on British comedy as been as profound as Pete and Dud. Modern satire can be traced directly back to "Beyond the Fringe" (and Cook's involvement in Private Eye), Monty Python owes a gargantuan debt to their work, alternative comedy was partly born out of the release of Derek and Clive live and Pete and Dud cracked America which Eric and Ernie never did. Cook in particular was in this reviewers opinion the funniest man to have ever drawn breath, a view widely shared it has to be said not least when Cook easily topped the 2005 Channel 4 programme of The Comedian's Comedian, a poll of more than 300 comics, writers and directors. He was a true comedy genius with a skill for improvisation that was second to none, but Dudley was no mere poker faced comedy straight man but hugely funny in his own right. When they were together they produced their best work, when apart we see Dudley become a film superstar who burns out quickly and returns to his true vocation namely jazz piano. Cook alternatively despite brilliant cameos such as his Northern soccer manager and motivational speaker Alan Latchley ("Football is about nothing unless it's about something and what it is about is football!) essentially withdrew from the public gaze and enjoyed life entirely on his own terms which largely involved heavy drinking and Brazilian soap operas. Dudley equally saw his later years blighted by progressive superanuclear palsy ironically creating the impression that he was often drunk, how the both of them would have loved the irony. When Peter Cook died so in part did Dudley Moore despite their often tumultuous and acrimonious relationship they were comic Alpha and Omega and Dud's first act on Peter death was to phone up his answer phone to hear his voice again.

Those voices can be heard loud and clear throughout this wonderful book. It charts the various stages of their comic evolution, the characters and the sketches. It includes many new workings of the old sketches but also the originals in their true glory. Here you will find Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, Bo Dudley, the hilarious filth of Derek and Clive and of course the immortal Mr Spiggot the one legged Tarzan (is there a better Peter Cook line than "Ive got nothing against your right leg. the trouble is neither have you"). Sorry Amazon I bought this in hardback for a fiver in a second hand bookshop but will try to make it up to you, that said while I didn't pay much for it as a book charting the work of two comedic genius's it is priceless

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 09, 2011 6:50 am

Rhys Ifans made a fair stab at portraying Peter Cook in this UK TV Biodrama:



...but PC's friends and former colleagues were not happy about the script's emphasis on "the tortured clown" aspects of his personality. He was a nice man, they say, and he made them laugh.

Wiki:

Not Only But Always is a British TV movie, originally screened on the Channel 4 network in the UK on 30 December 2004. Written and directed by playwright Terry Johnson, the film tells the story of the working and personal relationship between the comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, a hugely popular duo in the UK during the 1960s and '70s.

Focusing primarily on Cook, the film traces the pair from their first meeting through their career as part of the Beyond the Fringe review, their television series Not Only... But Also (from which the film takes its title) and various other projects before their later estrangement as Moore became a successful Hollywood film star and Cook remained in the UK. Although some events are fictionalised and condensed, and the film was criticised in some quarters for an unsympathetic portrayal of many of Cook's faults, it was generally well-received critically.

Cook was played by Rhys Ifans, with Aidan McArdle co-starring as Moore.

*********************************************************************************

This was former Private Eye editor Richard Ingrams' reaction:

Peter the great

As a new biopic recreates the turbulent life of Peter Cook, his longtime collaborator and friend celebrates the brilliance - and sweetness - of a master comedian

Richard Ingrams The Observer, Sunday 19 December 2004

The man on the screen looks and sounds like Peter Cook and tells the Cook jokes: 'I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin.' But it is a bit like a dead person you meet in a dream. You know who they are but they don't look quite right and are tantalisingly and disappointingly unlike the real person you remember when you wake up.

I had this kind of experience watching Rhys Ifans impersonating my long-time friend and collaborator Peter Cook in Channel 4's Not Only But Always, a 'biopic' written and directed by Terry Johnson which chronicles the ups and downs, but mainly downs, of Peter's life and especially his long collaboration with Dudley Moore, the other half of the famous Pete and Dud duo.

Already, friends and relatives who have seen a preview are complaining about all the errors of fact which seem to be a hallmark of this kind of film. Something that happened in Australia is for some reason transferred to America. Cook's public school, Radley, looks remarkably like Harrow. And so on. Not that any of it matters very much. What does matter is the distorted picture the film gives of Peter Cook.

The Sixties had a way of conferring overnight fame on people when they were very young. I remember in particular how my schoolboy friend Willie Rushton became a celebrity aged 25 when he appeared with David Frost on That Was The Week That Was. Jonathan Miller compared himself and his fellow-performers (Cook, Moore and Alan Bennett) in Beyond the Fringe to the Beatles. Good-looking and supremely self-confident, Cook was the Paul McCartney, the natural leader. It is hard for those who remember him only in later years, a rather shambling, overweight figure traipsing round Soho or Hampstead, to realise just how smart, chic and fashionable he was in his Sixties heyday.

The difficulty facing anyone like Johnson trying to recreate Cook is that that side of him, which is what his best friends remember, can never be recaptured. 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. I remember in the early days of the Eye how he used to come into the office and make hoax telephone calls. Once, when he had seen a group of native African dancers performing topless on the BBC, he rang an official at the corporation claiming to be Sidney Darlow, the manager of Sidney Darlow dancers, wanting to know why his troupe of white women could not dance naked on television just like the black ones had done. On another occasion, he spoke to quite a senior official at the Foreign Office, telling him at great and manic length how the Russians were spying on him down his drainpipes.

Dudley Moore played no part in the Private Eye pranks except when we recorded the flexi-discs that we used to stick on the Christmas issue. Once we did a send-up of the King's College, Cambridge, carol service, at the end of which Dudley sang in falsetto 'How beautiful are the feet' while Peter improvised in the foreground. 'Oh, they're lovely feet.'

Dudley also played the part of Spiggy Topes, leader of the Turds, 'a popular singing group' (one of Peter's inventions). 'Spiggy,' said Peter in the person of Irish TV chatshow host Eamon Andrews. 'I believe you and your group were once turned out of a London hotel.' 'Yeah, that's quite correct Eamon,' Spiggy replied, 'we went in there perfectly normally dressed wearing gold lamé knickers and feathers up our bottoms.' 'And yet they turned you away,' Peter added in a throwaway, almost certainly improvised, that somehow made the interview instantly memorable.

After those recording sessions, I only saw Dudley Moore once again, before I saw him for the last time at Peter's memorial service in Hampstead. We were both guests of the Radio 4 programme Start the Week. I was looking forward to seeing him again but he hardly seemed to recognise me. It was as if the jokey person I had once fooled around with in the recording studio had somehow been obliterated. Rightly or wrongly, I put this down to the fact that he had become heavily involved with American therapists and in the process of trying to master imaginary phobias and neuroses had managed to lose his personality altogether.

In Johnson's film, the central tragic figure is Peter Cook when it might have made more sense to focus on Moore. Their relationship was a bit like that of Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, also the subject of a recent 'biopic'. Milligan was generally considered the mad one but compared with those of Sellers his lunacies were trivial. Milligan never lost his strong sense of the absurdities of human existence, but Sellers, caught up in the Hollywood fantasy world, became increasingly and unpleasantly balanced. Moore, with a similar string of unhappy relationships with women, suffered the same sort of fate.

Cook could never be described as mad. But the Cook that Rhys Ifans gives us is a thoroughly unsympathetic character, horrid to Dudley, cruel to his wives. There is none of his charm, none of his basic sweetness of character. It is undeniable that he had another side to him. But that had a very simple explanation, namely that he was an alcoholic and it is well known that alcoholics tend to take it out on those nearest to them, their wives and close colleagues.

So it is hardly surprising that Dudley and his three wives had to put up with some appalling behaviour. All I can say is that over the many years I knew Peter, he was never cruel to me. I was interested to hear that Joe McGrath, the brilliant producer of Not Only But Also (the Cook / Moore masterpiece, most of which the BBC managed to destroy), said the same thing. Unlike Barry Humphries, another comic genius who took to drink in a big way in the Sixties, Peter was never able to conquer his addiction. And it eventually ruined him as a performer, because it ruined that sense of timing which is essential to any comic. I never saw Peter completely plastered but like Dr Johnson's school-friend, the Rev Charles Congreve, he was always 'muddy' (and, like Congreve, he liked to be left alone so that he could drink in private). Humphries became a lifelong member of AA. But perhaps because AA works on religious principles, Peter could never go along with it. With the help of his psychiatrist, the remarkable Dr Max Glatt, he did attend a number of meetings and even set up his own 'secular' group but he was never able to stick with it. In one of his short periods of sobriety towards the end, he recorded a brilliant programme of spoof interviews with Clive Anderson, which gave younger viewers, unfamiliar with the Cook of the Sixties, a glimpse of the old magic. Shortly afterwards, following the death of his mother, he was back on the bottle.

It seems to be the fate of comedians to be remembered now not for their jokes and their genius - even though these are preserved on film - but for their personal fads and failings. This misplaced emphasis tends to confirm the popular view that inside every funny man there is a deeply depressed, complicated and probably unpleasant person struggling to get out. The media fasten on to the peculiar personal habits of Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd, Milligan's depression, the alcoholism of Tony Hancock or Cook. In the process, the humour is overlooked.

Luckily, in all these cases, it survives on film and the likelihood is that audiences will be watching Cook and Moore long after Johnson's film is forgotten. As it happens, they will have a chance to do that on New Year's Day when The South Bank Show will televise extracts from Goodbye Again, a series originally made by Dud and Pete for ATV in 1968. The tapes were thought to have been lost along with the BBC's and have only recently been unearthed. Though not of the same quality as McGrath's Not Only But Also, they include some classic dialogues which are as funny as anything they ever did. So why watch actors pretending to be Dud and Pete when you can see the real thing?

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011 review:




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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:21 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty68LPKRQQQ
One Leg Too Few- Cook/Moore.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:24 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvQq_tqB0jA&feature=related
In the Pub- Cook/Moore

...featuring bloody Greta Garbo.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:55 pm

His career and marriage on the rocks, drinking heavily, Peter Cook took to making a series of anonymous calls to Clive Bull's LBC Radio all night phone-in show posing as a lonely fish-obsessed Norwegian fisherman named Sven whose wife has left him.

Here are a couple of sample calls by Sven from Swiss Cottage:


http://stabbers.truth.posiweb.net/stabbers/html/sven.htm
The Fish Hour. Sven explains his delight in finding not all British radio 'phone in's are about fish. Unlike Norway, where the fish phone in's have become so bad, Sven's wife, Yuta has left him.

http://stabbers.truth.posiweb.net/stabbers/html/sven.htm
Mystery Sound. Sven 'phones in response to the Mystery Sound Competition. Unfortunately for Sven "fish" is the wrong answer. Clive Bull let's Sven set the question for the next competition.


The links put you through to The Establishment, the website of the Peter Cook Appreciation Society. Just scroll down the page a little way and click on the Sven call you wish to experience.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:42 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmp6DDnbX2g
At The Zoo- Cook/Moore

The earlist footage of Peter Cook shows him as a toddler dogging the footsteps of his parents' gardener in search of creepy-crawlies, a preoccupation which lasted a life-time.

If I can find it, I'll post his "Viper-in-the box" sketch.

Cook married his second wife Judy Huxtable because she shared his love of bees, and bee-keeping features in the last significant work he ever recorded: the Why Bother? interviews with Chris Morris with Cook in his Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling persona.

This preoccupation with Nature went hand-in-hand with Cook's questioning of religious orthodoxy. Cook was troubled by Religion, a theme expressed in sketches as diverse as the Miners/Judges monologue already posted in this section by precinct to the discovery of the fossilised bones of the infant Christ in one of the Streeb-Greebling/Chris Morris interviews on Why Bother?

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:45 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88iiMUKepSE&feature=related
The Worst Bloody Thing That Could Happen to You- Pete & Dud, 1965.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:49 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhS35f015SQ
Teaching Ravens to Fly Underwater- Cook/Moore.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:53 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUrhdIxTJSA
The Great Train Robbery from Beyond the Fringe- Cook interviewed by Alan Bennett.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:57 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EzEsXnDshs
"I have a viper in this box, not an asp..."- Cook in his EL Wisty persona.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:31 am

Cook appeared as four different characters in a single edition of the Clive Andersen chat show. Here are the four interviews:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vi2sqVEhKU

Norman House

Mr. Norman House talks about his wife Wendy, their flatlet in Ipswich and being abducted by aliens. Often compared to EL Wisty, I feel this character is more similar to "Pete" from "Not Only. . . But Also".


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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:35 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeG9r6HxJgE

Alan Latchley

Alan details his career as a football manager. From his early days as a sixteen year old, through to his present devotion to the three M's. Is this the embodiment of Peter Cook's "Ron Knee" character? Private Eye readers will embrace one another upon hearing such delicious failures as the Escapini Defence - no more own goals from Pevsner!

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:39 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AKrkHIq43g

Sir James Beauchamp

His Honour Sir James speaks to Clive Anderson and explains how he came to be suspended from the bench. A latter day Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling.



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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:46 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dj8v9Cjwlw&feature=related

Eric Daley

Having just come out of rehab at the Henry Ford Clinic, Eric is overjoyed just to be straight for one day. There's a special surprise for fans of Ye Gods, when Eric announces they may reform. Is this Peter Cook's long lost dream? From his Elvis impressions, to Drimble Wedge, to Eric Daley. Peter Cook always wanted to be a rock star. Shame he couldn't sing.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:53 pm

^

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au9_vfx6t6c
Peter Cook (aka Satan) as Drimble Wedge, lead singer of Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations, stealing Dudley Moore's thunder (and his chicks).

Cook may not have had a musical bone in his body (for which I'm sure he resented the highly musical Dudley Moore) but he had an acute sense of popular culture and counted rock stars such as John Lennon and Keith Richards among his friends.

Interestingly, Drimble Wedge anticipates certain trends in pop music by decades.




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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:06 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z8AddFYCnA&feature=related
Cook as a satanic traffic warden in Bedazzled.

Note that Cook's script reveals his preoccupation with Religion once more: in this case, the Faustian bargain Peter/Satan induces everyman Dudley to make with the Evil One.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:25 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWpRcRCUKsY
At the Races- Derek and Clive (illustrated version).

This was one of the better Derek & Clive sketches, largely because it was scripted before the filthy b*****ds went into the recording studio. Cook had come to rely too heavily not only on the bottle but also on his sense of his own improvisational genius. Improvisational genius he certainly had, but it doesn't hurt to do a bit of homework, too.

The Derek & Clive recordings were never intended for public release- they were made to while away the hours of offstage tedium during a long, long Broadway run- but bootlegged tapes found their way into the hands of touring rock bands and became a huge underground cult (yes, I do mean cult) hit. So much so that they thought..what the hell...let's release them and make some money.

Derek and Clive were very popular with 1970's schoolboys- largely, I suppose, because of the swear words and the 'difficult' subject matter. They're either schoolboy smut or groundbreaking comedy, depending on your perspective.

Personally, I think the first Derek and Clive album was the best. After that, the law of diminishing returns set in and by the time "Derek and Clive get the Horn" was released the one-great comic partnership was visibly coming apart at the seams.




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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:37 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWpRcRCUKsY
Derek and Clive Get the Horn- excerpt.

This is painful viewing- and it's not just the dark studio lighting that makes this so bleak.

Dudley is visibly uncomfortable. He obviously doesn't approve of the way Peter is working.

The documentary's best moments (tellingly) were supplied by Virgin boss Richard Branson who arranged a fake police raid and a strippergram delivery. The stripper can't take Peter either; she much prefers Dudley.

It's come to something when Richard Branson- of all people- is funnier than the comics he's employed to make an album.

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Re: Peter Cook & Company

Post  eddie on Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:31 am

It's not easy to sum up the life and career of a man like Peter Cook but Alan Bennett made a fair attempt at Cook's memorial service:

*********************************************************************************

Alan Bennett remembers Peter Cook

Alan Bennett

It is 35 years, almost to the day, that I first set eyes on Peter, at lunch in a restaurant, I think on Goodge Street, with Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, the meeting arranged by John Bassett, whose idea it was that we should all work together writing the review that turned into Beyond the Fringe.

Having already written while still an undergraduate a large slice of the two West End shows Pieces of Eight and One Over the Eight, Peter was quite prosperous and it showed. He dressed out of Sportique, an establishment – gents’ outfitters wouldn’t really describe it – at the west end of Old Compton Street, the premises I think now occupied by the Café Espana.

There hadn’t really been any men’s fashions before 1960; most of the people I knew dressed in sports coat and flannels, as some of us still do; but when I first saw Peter he was wearing a shortie overcoat, a not quite bum-freezer jacket, narrow trousers, winkle-picker shoes and a silk tie with horizontal bars across it. But what was most characteristic of him, and which remained constant throughout his life, regardless of the sometimes quite dramatic changes in his physical appearance, was that he was carrying, as he always seemed to be carrying, a large armful of newspapers. He had besides a book on racing form and I remember being impressed not merely that this was someone who bet on horses but here was someone who knew how to bet on horses, and indeed had an account at a bookmakers.

But it was the newspapers that were the clue to him. He was nurtured by newspapers and there’s a sense that whatever he wrote or extemporised, which he could at that time with a fluency so effortless as to make us all feel in differing degrees costive, was a kind of mould or fungus that grew out of the literally yards of newsprint that he daily digested. Newspapers mulched his talents and he remained loyal to them all his life, and when he died they repaid some of that loyalty.

In those days I never saw him reading a book. I think he thought that most books were a con or at any rate a waste of time. He caught the drift of books though, sufficient for his own purposes, namely jokes, picking up enough about Proust, for instance, to know that he suffered from asthma and couldn’t breathe very well; he decided in the finish, according to Peter, that if he couldn’t do it well he wouldn’t do it at all, and so died – this one of the gems from the monologue in Beyond the Fringe about the miner who wanted to be a judge but didn’t have the Latin. How Proust had managed to work his way into the sketch I can’t now remember because it was less of a sketch than a continuing saga which each night developed new extravagances and surrealist turns, the mine at one point invaded by droves of Proust-lovers, headed by the scantily-clad Beryl Jarvis. Why the name Beryl Jarvis should be funny I can’t think. But it was and plainly is.

In those days Peter could tap a flow of mad verbal inventiveness that nothing could stem: not nerves, not drink, not embarrassment, not even the very occasional lack of response from the audience. He would sit there in his old raincoat and brown trilby, rocking slightly as he wove his ever more exuberant fantasies, on which, I have to admit, I looked less admiringly then than I do in retrospect. I had the spot in the show immediately following Peter’s monologue, which was scheduled to last five minutes or so but would often last for fifteen, when I would be handed an audience so weak from laughter I could do nothing with them.

Slim and elegant in those days he was also quite vain, sensing instinctively as soon as he came into a room where the mirror was and casting pensive sidelong glances at it while stroking his chin, as if checking up on his own beauty. He also knew which was his best side for photographers.

There were limits to his talents; one or two things he thought he could do well he actually couldn’t do for toffee; one was an imitation of Elvis and another was to ad lib Shakespeare. Both were deeply embarrassing though of course Peter was immune to embarrassment; that was one of his great strengths.

What makes speaking about him a delicate task is that he was intolerant of humbug: detecting it (and quite often mistakenly), he would fly into a huge self-fuelling rage which propelled him into yet more fantasy and even funnier jokes. So it’s hard to praise him to his face, even his dead face, that quizzical smile never very far away, making a mockery of the sincerest sentiments. So he would be surprised, I think, to be praised for his strength of character, but in his later years when some of his talent for exuberant invention deserted him I never heard him complain. It must have been some consolation that the younger generation of comic writers and performers drew inspiration from him but he never bragged about that either. Nor did he resent that Dudley had gone on to success in Hollywood and he hadn’t. The only regret he regularly voiced was that at the house we rented in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1963 he had saved David Frost from drowning.

In later years I saw him quite seldom, though if he’d seen something you’d done on television he’d generally telephone, ostensibly to congratulate you but actually to congratulate you on having got away with it yet again.

There’s a scene in Brideshead Revisited where Charles Ryder has an exhibition of his worthy but uninspired paintings which is a great success. Then Anthony Blanche turns up, who knows exactly what’s what: ‘My dear,’ he says, ‘let us not expose your little imposture before these good, plain people; let us not spoil their moment of pleasure. But we know, you and I, that this is all t-terrible t-tripe.’ And sometimes what Peter was telephoning about had been tripe and sometimes it hadn’t, but you didn’t mind because there’s always a bit of you thinks it is anyway and it was to that part of you that Peter spoke. And since he did it without rancour or envy it was a great relief. I suppose it was partly this that made him in his latter days such an unlikely father figure for younger performers.

In the press coverage of his death one could detect a certain satisfaction, the feeling being that he had paid some sort of price for his gifts, had died in the way the press prefer funny men to die, like Hancock and Peter Sellers, sad and disappointed. I don’t know that that was true and it certainly wouldn’t have found much favour with Peter. Trying to sum him up in his latter years, the television in the afternoon, the chat shows, the golf in Hong Kong, one thinks of one of the stock characters in an old-fashioned Western, Thomas Mitchell, say in John Ford’s Stagecoach, the doctor who’s always to be found in the saloon and whose allegiance is never quite plain. Seldom sober, he is cleverer than most of the people he associates with, spending his time playing cards with the baddies but taking no sides. Still when the chips are down, and slightly to his own surprise, he does the right thing. But there is never any suggestion that, having risen to the occasion, he is going to mend his ways in any permanent fashion. He goes on much as ever down the path to self-destruction, knowing that redemption is not for him – and it is this that redeems him.

As for us, his audience, we are comforted by the assurance that there is a truer morality than the demands of convention, that this is a figure from the parables, a publican, a sinner but never a Pharisee. In him morality is discovered far from its official haunts, the message of a character like Peter’s being that a life of complete self-indulgence, if led with the whole heart, may also bring wisdom.



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