back to article 20 years on: The satirist's satirist Peter Cook remembered

It is 20 years since his death – and 50 years since his first comeback – but the reputation of the UK’s most influential comic and satirist, Peter Cook, is beginning to fade. Phil Strongman attempts to put the record straight ... Last year saw John Cleese receive the accolade of being voted the greatest British comedian of all …

Oh god yes....

...the Derek & Clive video is a once only watch. Like a car crash in painful slow motion.

Like watching a marriage break up. If you see it though, you can imagine that Cook could be a bully. He goads Moore throughout the session in a less than friendly manner. Sadness? Frustration at Moore soon to be departing across the pond leaving him behind? We'll never know.

Also it blows a few myths too. Moore turns up to the session with nothing more than a bag of fruit. Whereas Cook has a pile of notes/material ready to go. So not surprising Moore can only react and ad-lib to what Cook says on that occasion. Not as spontaneous/off the cuff as many have alluded to.

Don't know if that was the case for all the D&C sessions, possibly not.

Cook was still a genius and I was mortified this day 20 years ago. I can't remember who said it (possibly Fry actually) to crush criticism that Cook had wasted the last 20 years of his life but they said (iirc) "He didn't waste the last years of his life, he had just done everything he set out to do, far earlier than planned!"

8
0
Silver badge

Re: Oh god yes....

I understood he only wanted the last D&C session so he could swear repeatedly at Dud for daring to be a bigger star in Hollywood than he was...

3
0
Headmaster

Re: Oh god yes....

"...Cook was still a genius and I was *mortified* this day 20 years ago..."

I don't think that word means what you think it means...

...or what 99% of the population seem to think it means, come to that.

1
1
Silver badge

"greatest British comedian of all time "

Ronnie Barker.

7
5
Silver badge

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

What a blessed generation the baby boomers must be, to have had both candidates for greatest British comedian of all time amongst their ranks.

6
4
Silver badge

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

Too many to choose from. Barker was brilliant but there was also Tommy Handley, Max Miller, Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Cook, etc. All of them have had me incapacitated with laughter in their time.

It was nice to see Peter Cook get some work from later comedians: Mr Jolly Lives Next Door is, in my view, the best of The Comic Strip films; Chris Morris' heavily ad-libbed interviews of Cook as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebly.

13
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

Tommy Cooper could just walk on and stand still and people would be laughing in anticipation.

As said too many too choose from and a nod to the people behind many of them such as Barry Cryer.

21
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

Upvote for this. Just reading "Tommy Cooper could just walk on and stand still and people would be laughing in anticipation." has me smirking.

7
0

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

You're not the only one. That bloke was comedy incarnate. Can't think of anyone else who could walk onto a set, stare at a chair, and get a response like he could, you yourself would have all the things going through your mind on what he was going to say, to then be surprised when he pointed out something obvious you'd not thought off.

Even the show he died, I have to admit, I was giggling as it happened as I thought it was all a setup. Even the curtain being shaken around with his feet sticking out, you couldn't have set something like that up to be as funny. What a way for a comedian to go.

0
0

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

"Too many to choose from. Barker was brilliant but there was also Tommy Handley, Max Miller, Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Cook, etc."

Spike Milligan, the greatest British comedian of all time? I don't think so.

He was Irish.

1
3

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

"and a nod to the people behind many of them such as Barry Cryer."

And for goodness sake do not forget Eric Sykes. Massive contributions to (other people's) comedy for 40 years.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

"He was Irish"

Anglo-Irish, and certainly British enough to serve in the RA. Only Irish nationality after bureaucracy intervened (to put it politely) and he ended up 'stateless'.

Thinking on it. The forgotten Goon was Anglo-Peruvian.

And Sid James was South African born English, which with Bill Kerr the South African-born Australian made Hancock's Half Hour quite international.

2
0

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

"He was Irish"

Paraphrasing the man himself.

Fan [approaching]: can I shake the hand of the greatest living Englishman?

Spike: I'm Irish.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

"Tommy Handley, Max Miller, Spike Milligan, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Peter Cook"

And let's remember Lance Percival as another of the greats of that time.

Then there were some great singers who appeared on those shows, Millicent Martin, Cleo Laine, Marion Montgomery, Annie Ross...Duds reduced a few of those to laughter if they were brave enough to duet with him.

We just didn't realise how lucky we were.

0
0
Silver badge

Spike, Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

"British enough to serve in the RA". Milligan was born in India, but his father's place of birth was in Ireland, then (1918) a part of the United Kingdom. The family moved to England in the 1920s, so as a British resident, he was conscripted into the British Army in 1939 and served for six years.

However, Milligan was never entitled to automatic British citizenship, and once India became an independent country, his automatic right to a British passport was cast into doubt, and he eventually became stateless. After a long, long battle around his refusal to swear the Oath of Allegiance (out of stubbornness, and the not unreasonable argument that six years service in the Army should count as prior proof of allegiance to the Crown), he exercised his right to Irish citizenship: Ireland's law gave him an automatic right to citizenship as the child of a British citizen born in Ireland before 1922, but British rules required him to have been born in the UK too.

Spike always considered himself Irish, but never lived in Ireland. However, his grave carries the Irish inscription "dúirt mé leat go raibh mé broite" ... "I told you I was ill" (the council refused to allow the English version)

2
0

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

That's Streeb-GreebLING (or possibly Greeb-Streebling).

0
0
Silver badge

Re: "greatest British comedian of all time "

Yes who could forget Les Dawson's little dittys and those wonderful piano pieces full of majestically ballsed up notes.

1
0
Pint

Born a little too late to really appreciate Cook my first recollection of seeing him was in the Comic Strip's "Mr Jolly Lives Next Door", Cook playing the psychotic murder/assassin of the title.

I think a lot of people must have really appreciated Cook's talent, even the so-called at the time, alternative comedians of the Comic Strip obviously thought a lot of his comedic talent to ask him to take on a title role in one of their plays.

5
0
Silver badge

2000 Gin and tonics

Mr Jolly Lives Next Door - Cook at his sneering best somehow managing to shine amongst the Dangerous Brothers.

The man was an absolute genius.

Make them large ones!

1
0
Silver badge

Re: 2000 Gin and tonics

A great script, and great directing from Stephen Frears made the ensemble piece work: Peter Richardson's portrayal of Mr Lovebucket was outstanding but it all clicked. But really, with the premise of getting Nicholas Parsons to fly in by helicopter to open Heimi Henderson's off-licence, what could go wrong?

"Do you know Mr Jolly?"

"Know him? He borrows our Fairy Liquid!"

0
0

I'd suggest Ad Nauseum as the best insight into just how far Derek and Clive pushed the comedic boundaries. I still quote from D and C today, (to blank looks of course).

'I said you C*nt', etc...

Classic stuff. Everything else is tame by comparison.

9
0

My girlfriend and I have taken one as one of our most used phrases.

"And I said...with all the dignity I could muster...is this any way to run a f****ing (insert whatever here)?!

However, Cook was quite the visionary. How long before we actually have a reality TV show called 'Celebrity Suicides'?

2
0

And The W*nker's coming with a late run!

...and now it's back to topless darts at Roehampton.

5
0
Bronze badge

"However, Cook was quite the visionary. How long before we actually have a reality TV show called 'Celebrity Suicides'?"

YES!!! Exactly what the world needs! And "Blow Your Tits Off" too! I can't wait until the US Presidency is decided by which presidential candidate's tits go highest!

1
0

Lobsters...

From Jayne Mansfield's arsehole.

As performed by a pair of chimpanzees

"Worst job I ever 'ad..."

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Lobsters...

Thanks for the link.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Lobsters...

More years ago than can be counted a bartender pal played me that record. I have never forgot that line....

0
0
Silver badge

And don't forget

The Impressive Clergyman

Mawaige!

4
0

Bah!

Not foam, but "a vat of BBC gunge".

I remember the John Betjeman/Dudley Moore improvisational poem-off that ended with everyone dumped in the gunge (as the sessions always did), with Dudley Moore hurtling in in mid-spate and surfacing still continuing his poem.

1
0
Silver badge
Joke

Hello *

My lifelong wish remains a Frobisher and Gleason raspberry flavour ice lolly.

* "What do you mean, "Hello"?"

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hello *

I'd have bought you one but I only have a million pound note.

0
0

Our cats are named Derek and Clive :)

4
0

My brother gave me a copy of Harry Thompson's biography of Peter Cook, a genuine must-read for Cook fans. My take-away was that Dudley Moore was the star, really, but Peter Cook, being tall and handsome, was a formidable presence. It was sad to read about Cook's decline in the 70s and into the 80s, with a disastrous chat show called "Where Do I Sit?", and his tragic death just as he was bouncing back in the 90s.

I love the 1967 Bedazzled. I had the DVD at work, and put it on while doing some envelope stuffing. The mail man came in just as the scene where Dudley Moore ineptly tries to seduce Eleanor Bron started - he must have wondered what the hell i was watching!

0
0

One of the most memorable things I remember from TV in the 80's was watching the night Joan Rivers had Bernard Manning on that chat show with Cook as her weekly 'stooge' sitting on the end of the sofa.

Manning walks on, sits down, turns grinning to a grimacing Cook and says "What's the matter Peter? You're not being very funny tonight!"

Cook....crushed. I think it's in YouTube.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Cook's decline in the 70s and into the 80s

He did come back from that though. Cook did some low-key but still brilliant stuff later. His "Sven from Swiss Cottage" phone calls to LBC were hilarious.

In the early 90s one of last appearances was on the Clive Anderson show where he played all four guests. I watched again it a couple of weeks ago and it's still excellent.

1
0
Ed

You can hear one of the calls here: http://www.lbc.co.uk/peter-cooks-sven-from-norway-calls-clive-bull-76357

0
0
Coat

Er, i'm keeping quiet here ;)

1
0
Anonymous Coward

The original Bedazzled

It's a sign of how the intellectual content of films has declined over the years. The original film stuck pretty close to Catholic theology - the Devil as the father of lies - so that you could read it equally as a send up of religion or a modern reinterpretation of it. (The same is true of the Life of Brian, which can be read two ways.) Modern films seem much cruder.

8
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: The original Bedazzled

Absolutely. One of my favourite films. I love the brilliant little touches in each vignette, such as Peter Cook offering Dud a long spoon when they sit down to eat, and Pete pointing out that the "innocent, sweet little old lady" was quite happy to participate in fraud.

Some days, just reading the news makes me want to blow a raspberry and shout "Julie Andrews" in the vain hope of something better.

I've never understood why the so-called profession film critics seem to rate this film so poorly. They're all f****** c**** I suppose.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: The original Bedazzled

Probably no brown envelopes in it. (I can't speak with certainty for film critics, but a former colleague who worked for EMI for many years had hair raising stories of the bribery and corruption in the music industry, including assistants being sent out to buy cocaine for influential DJs, and large amounts of cash being stuffed into envelopes before parties.)

1
0
Windows

Re: The original Bedazzled

Yup, I was actually reading Dr Faustas (the Marlowe) play when I first saw a (repeat) of Bedazzled. Very close. The postbox adulation scene had me in stitches...

1
0

We humans are driven by art, music and philosophy to think about our current condition. Satire is part of this. The absurdity of our existence is reflected in the musings of Derek and Clive.

The only thing that really works is science. Not much inherent humour there though just hard work.

I find any organised religion a pathetic cop out to our real job i.e. to understand ourselves and the rest of the Universe.

We are all groping in the dark for understanding and meaning to our lives. Peter Cook was one of many beacons that shone some light in my youth.

Life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease or a journey to be enjoyed not endured. Remember it is NOT the destination. We all know what that is! Bert

0
0

And remember, the considerate lover always spits up the c....

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Cook had that self-destructive edge that makes a comedian more unpredictable and so both funnier and scarier (see Bill Hicks, Andy Kaufman).

That makes them big box office for a short period before they scare/offend the networks and become fringe cult viewing while the Dudley Moores and the Steve Martins of this world become film stars.

I do think that the latter group are often as quick witted but are ultimately less compelling viewing because they're less likely to go off on a complete tangent that either sets the audience on fire or burns the house down. It's also why Paul McCartney is inevitably less rock and roll than Jim Morrisson, but why he's lived to a ripe old age and made a fortune.

1
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Jump into this 'ere blanket, we'll catch you.....

...laugh? I nearly shat!

Those were the days.

5
0

Re: Jump into this 'ere blanket, we'll catch you.....

I think you'll find that was Dud - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZEEgIti8sM

Blasphemy - I never ever got Cook. He seemed a self-absorbed man who made me laugh only once, in the Tarzan sketch: "I've got nothing against your right leg..."

0
0
Silver badge

Cracking up

They used to try and get each other to crack up and that made things even better.

Painfully funny and brilliantly observed.

0
0

brilliant things you forgot to mention

Cook on Clive Anderson talks back

Cook in the Rik & Ake film 'Mr Jolly Lives Next Door', with the classic lines:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs3s30t5duw (language, Timothy!)

oh and BTW greatest british comic - Spike Milligan. Influenced everybody bloody else that has been mentioned here....

3
0

Re: brilliant things you forgot to mention

Yeah, he was brilliant on Clive James' show, appearing on TV after quite a long hiatus as a trio (IIRC) of alter egos. He pretended to be some crazed UFO spotter as well as a completely useless football manager with the catchphrase 'Dare to Fail', so funny. His 'diseased penis' also had me in stitches. Apparently, it needed 'regular massage to get rid of the pus'. Genius.

0
0

There's a great radio interview with Brian Eno where he claimed that he hasn't had a phone conversation with David Bowie in 20yrs which wasn't carried on as them doing Pete and Dud. Eno provides spot on impersonations to illustrate.

1
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018