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Peter Cook

Peter Edward Cook was a British satirist, writer and comedian who is widely regarded as the father of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He is closely associated with an anti-establishment style of comedy that emerged in the late 1950s in the depths of the Cold War.

Cook was himself 'establishment' educated, at Radley and Pembroke College, Cambridge, and it was at the latter that he first performed and wrote comedy sketches.

On graduation, he wrote professionally for, amongst others, Kenneth Williams, before finding fame in his own right as a star of the satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe.

Working with others such as Eleanor Bron, John Bird, and John Fortune, he broadened the scope of television comedy and pushed out the hitherto restricted boundaries of the BBC. His partnership with Dudley Moore, led to the popular and critically feted television show Not Only... But Also. Using few props, and with musical interludes performed by Moore, they created a new style of dry absurdist televison which found a place in the mainstream. Perhaps Cook's most enduring comic character is the static, dour, and monotone E. L. Wisty, created in this period.

With his star firmly in the ascendant he opened The Establishment Club in Soho which allowed him to associate with the big stars of the day.

Both Peter Cook and Dudley Moore acted in films, and Cook worked with Moore in such films as The Wrong Box (1966) and Bedazzled (1967) (with Eleanor Bron). Moore went on to Hollywood stardom in the 1970s and 1980s, which was a cause of some bitterness to Cook.

Peter Cook also 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 show business friends and colleagues.

Later, the more risque humour of the Pete and Dud characters was taken to excess on long-playing records whereon the names Derek and Clive were used. One of these audio recordings was also filmed and the long running tensions between the duo are seen to rise to the surface.

Cook was an avid media follower, reading nearly all the British newspapers every day and following TV and radio programmes with vigour. He even gained a regular slot on a night-time London radio programme, where he would phone in using a pseudonym (Svenn from Swiss Cottage) and entertain listeners with his complaints and musings.

Cook is an acknowledged influence on an large stream of comedians who have followed him from the amateur dramatic clubs of British universities to the Edinburgh festival and from thence to the radio and television studios of the BBC. Notable fans include the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and, more recently, the controversial satirist Chris Morris with whom Cook worked briefly in his final years.

Together with Spike Milligan, Cook broke so much new ground in the 1950 to 1965 period, that some feel that later comics had relatively little ground left to break. Some have seen Cook's life as tragic, insofar as the brilliance he exhibited in his youth did not lead to the recognition many thought he deserved.

His death in 1995 was as a result of internal haemhorraging caused by alcoholism.


Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Peter Cook Facts

OccupationWriter, Comedian, Actor
BirthdayNovember 17, 1937
SignScorpio
BirthplaceUnited Kingdom
Date of deathJanuary 9, 1995 (age 57)
Height6' 2" (1m88)  How tall is Peter Cook compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Not available.