English actor, satirist, writer and comedian Peter Cook was born 17 November 1937. he is regarded as An extremely influential figure in modern British comedy & a leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s & has been described by Stephen Fry as “the funniest man who ever drew breath”. Cook was closely associated with anti-establishment comedy which emerged in Britain and the United States in the late 1950s. Educated at Radley College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, Cook initially studied French and German intending to become a career diplomat, he joined the Cambridge University Liberal Club & It was at Pembroke that Cook performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the Cambridge Footlights Club, of which he became president in 1960’s, & wrote for Kenneth Williams, for whom he created an entire West End comedy revue called One Over the Eight, before joining a four-man group satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore, which became a great success after being first performed at the Edinburgh Festival and included Cook impersonating the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. This was one of the first occasions satirical political mimicry had been attempted in live theatre and it shocked audiences.
In 1961 Cook opened the Establishment club in central London, presenting fellow comedians in a nightclub setting, including American Lenny Bruce. Cook said it was 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”. Cook befriended and supported Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British solo career at the club. Cook’s chiselled looks and languid manner led Humphries to observe that whereas most people take after their father or mother, Cook seemed more like an aunt. Dudley Moore’s jazz trio also played in the basement of the club during the early 1960s.
In 1962, the BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on the Establishment club, called That Was The Week That Was it had made a star of David Frost, something Cook resented. The 1960s satire boom was closing and Cook said that Britain would “sink into the sea under the weight of its own giggling”. Around this time, Cook provided financial backing for the satirical magazine Private Eye, supporting it through difficult periods, particularly in libel trials. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of the Establishment club. In 1963.Cook expanded television comedy with Eleanor Bron, John Bird and John Fortune. His first regular television spot was on Granada Television’s Braden Beat with Bernard Braden, where he featured his most enduring character: the static, dour and monotonal E.L. Wisty, whom Cook had conceived for Radley College’s Marionette Society.
Cook’s comedy partnership with Dudley Moore led to Not Only… But Also. This was intended by the BBC for Moore’s music, but Moore invited Cook to write sketches and appear with him. Using few props, they created dry and absurd television. Cook played characters such as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling and the two men created their Pete and Dud alter egos. Other sketches included “Superthunderstingcar”, a parody of the Gerry Anderson marionette TV shows, and Cook’s pastiche of 1960s trendy artsdocumentaries – satirised in a parodic TV segment on Greta Garbo. A compilation of six half-hour programmes, The Best of What’s Left of Not Only…But Also. Cook and Moore began to act in films together such as With The Wrong Box (1966) and Bedazzled (1967) , the underlying story of Bedazzled is a comic parody of Faust, which stars Cook as George Spigott (The Devil) who tempts Stanley Moon (Moore), a frustrated, short-order chef, with the promise of gaining his heart’s desire – the unattainable beauty and waitress at his cafe, Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron) – in exchange for his soul, but repeatedly tricks him. The film features cameo appearances by Barry Humphries as Envy and Raquel Welch as Lust. Moore composed the soundtrack music and co-wrote (with Cook) the songs performed in the film. In 1968, Cook and Moore did four one-hour programmes entitled Goodbye Again with John Cleese ,which were based on the Pete and Dud characters.
In 1970, Cook took over a project initiated by David Frost for a satirical film called The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer about an opinion pollster who rises to become President of Great Britain. Asa reult Cook became a favourite of the chat show circuit sadly his own effort at hosting one for the BBC in 1971, Where Do I Sit? didn’t work and He was replaced after only two episodes by Michael Parkinson, which Parkinson’s career as a chat show host. Cook and Moore fashioned sketches from Not Only….But Also and Goodbye Again with new material into the stage revue called Behind the Fridge. Which proved very popular and won Tony and Grammy Awards. When it finished, Moore stayed in the U.S. to pursue a film career in Hollywood. Cook returned to Britain and recorded the more risqué humour of Pete and Dud on long-playing records like “Derek and Clive”. The first recording used material conceived years before for the two characters but considered too outrageous. One of these audio recordings was also filmed and The popularity of the recording convinced Cook to release it commercially, and although Moore was initially reluctant Two further Derek and Clive albums were released, the last accompanied by a film.
In 1978 Cook appeared on British music series Revolver as the manager of a ballroom where emerging punk and new wave acts played. For some groups, these were their first appearances on television. Cook’s acerbic commentary was an aspect of the programme.In 1979 Cook recorded comedy-segments as B-sides to the Sparks 12-inch singles “Number One In Heaven” and “Tryouts For The Human Race”. Cook also played multiple roles on the 1977 concept album Consequences, written and produced by former 10cc members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. A mixture of spoken comedy and progressive rock with an environmental subtext. Cook appeared at the first three fund-raising galas staged by humourists John Cleese and Martin Lewis on behalf of Amnesty International. The benefits were dubbed The Secret Policeman’s Balls, where he performed on all three nights of the first show in April 1976, A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick), 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. Cook was on the cast album of the show and in the film, Pleasure At Her Majesty’s. He was in the second Amnesty gala 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 all four nights of The Secret Policeman’s Ball – teaming with John Cleese. Cook performed a couple of solo pieces and a sketch with Eleanor Bron. He also led the ensemble in the finale – the “End Of The World” sketch from Beyond The Fringe. Although unable to take part in the 1981 gala, Cook supplied the narration over the animated opening title sequence of the 1982 film of the show. With Lewis, he wrote and voiced radio commercials 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 1987 stage reunion with 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. In 1980, partly spurred by Moore’s growing film star status, Cook moved to Hollywood and appeared as an uptight English butler to a wealthy American woman 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 in the LWT special Peter Cook & Co. The show included comedy sketches, including a Tales of the Unexpected parody “Tales Of The Much As We Expected”. This involved Cook as Roald Dahl, explaining his name had been Ronald before he dropped the “n”. The cast included John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Beryl Reid, Paula Wilcox and Terry Jones
In 1983 Cook played the role of Richard III in the first episode of Blackadder, “The Foretelling”, which parodies Laurence Olivier’s portrayal. He narrated the short film “Diplomatix” by Norwegian comedy trio Kirkvaag, Lystad and Mjøen, which won the “Special Prize of the City of Montreux” at the Montreux Comedy Festival in 1985. In 1986 he partnered 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.In 1988, Cook appeared as a contestant on the improvisation comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? Cook was declared the winner, his prize being to read the credits in the style of a New York cab driver – a character he’d portrayed in Peter Cook & Co. Cook returned to the BBC as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling for an appearance with Ludovic Kennedy in A Life in Pieces. The 12 interviews saw Sir Arthur recount his life based on the Twelve Days of Christmas. Unscripted interviews with Cook as Streeb-Greebling and satirist Chris Morris were recorded in late 1993 and broadcast as Why Bother? on BBC Radio 3. On 17 December 1993, Cook appeared on Clive Anderson Talks Back as four characters – biscuit tester and alien abductee Norman House, football manager and motivational speaker Alan Latchley, 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. Before the end of the next year his mother died, and Cook returned to heavy drinking. He made his last TV appearance on the show Pebble Mill in November 1994. Cook died on 9 January 1995, aged 57, having suffered a gastrointestinal haemorrhage (a direct result of severe liver damage) in the intensive-care unit of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, North London. Days earlier he had been taken in and announced, “I feel a bit poorly”. Dudley Moore attended Cook’s memorial service in London in May 1995 and he and Martin Lewis presented a two-night memorial for Cook in Los Angeles the following November, to mark what would have been Cook’s 58th birthday.
Cook is universally acknowledged as the main influence on British comedians who followed him from amateur dramatic clubs of British universities to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and then to the radio and television. On his death some critics choose to see Cook’s life as tragic, in so far as the brilliance of his youth had not been sustained in his later years. However, Cook himself always maintained that he had no ambitions at all for sustained success. He assessed happiness by his friendships and his enjoyment of life. Eric Idle and Stephen Fry said Cook had not wasted his talent but rather that the newspapers had tried to waste him. Several friends honoured him with a dedication in the closing credits of Fierce Creatures (1997), a 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.In 1999 the minor planet 20468 Petercook, in the main asteroid belt, was named after him.Ten years after his death, Cook was ranked at number one in the Comedians’ Comedian, a poll of 300 comics, comedy writers, producers and directors throughout the English-speaking world. Channel 4 broadcast Not Only But Always, a TV film dramatising the relationship between Cook and Moore, with Rhys Ifans portraying Cook. At the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe a play, written by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde, examined the relationship from Moore’s view, Pete and Dud: Come Again. 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 Cook in Limbo, 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 by the Heritage Foundation at the site of the Establishment club on 15 February 2009.