Almanac Comedy: My Favourite Comedies #8




#8 – Peter Cook (1958-1995)


Peter Cook has often been labelled the ‘Father of Satire’ and along with Spike Milligan perhaps the most ingenious and original comedian of all time.


He’s certainly one of the most influential, especially with British comedy such as Monty Python through to any modern satire program such as Mock the Week, as well as being adored by our own legends, Shaun Micallef and the late John Clarke.


Cook’s masterful anti-establishment scripts were bitingly funny and came from his own experiences  growing up in an upper middle class childhood with a diplomat for a father.


At Cambridge University he met Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore and they produced a revue called Beyond the Fringe which made it to the stage in New York and also onto television. He continued working with Dudley Moore for the next fifteen years on and off.


Dudley was a virtuoso  jazz and classical pianist who was the perfect foil for Cook and they had a very successful TV show in the 60’s, Not Only But Also, a touring stage show, Good Evening, as well as delving into movies like Bedazzled.


Cook had his own comedy clubs in London and NewYork devoted to satire called The Establishment, his own satirical newspaper, Private Eye and was the darling of the talk show circuit due to his sparkling wit and intelligence.


He was also a prolific writer for others such as David Frost and had scant regard for what critics  thought of him. Having read three biographies of him, two of which that were written by two of his three wives, I gained the impression Cook was the consummate artist, committed to his craft and never distracted by the money.


His lack of ambition was what separated Cook from Dudley Moore when Dudley headed to Hollywood for a few years, before they reunited under the guise of  Derek and Clive, which was simply the two of them in a studio,  drunk and telling stories.


I first heard their album Ad Nauseam, as a 16 year old and to this day it’s frankly the most disgusting thing I have ever heard, but gee it’s funny!  It’s so over the top with gratuitous profanity that it’s impossible to ignore and easy to laugh at.


It was the complete opposite to the articulate Cook and Moore of the 60’s and it was definitely ground breaking!  I have a few friends including my partner Lynda who will reprise a Derek and Clive routine occasionally but we are almost like a secret society these days!  The album cover of Ad Nauseum says it all and there is no way I could a post a sketch on this blog! If you haven’t heard Derek and Clive before, go to YouTube but you’ve been warned!





Cook sadly passed away in 1995 at the young age of 57 from complications of alcohol abuse. The Guardian ran a poll in 2005 with three hundred of the world’s leading comics, producers and directors throughout the English speaking world and Cook was ranked number one as the ‘Comedian’s Comedian’.


The following are some of my favourite sketches and if you’re a reader I would highly recommend Tragically I Was an Only Twin, a collection of his finest work and the following double cd which someone has kindly put on youtube so it’s effectively now a two hour podcast. It is written and narrated by the great Monty Python, Michael Palin and is a beautiful, detailed tribute to Cook’s life by one of his biggest fans.





This clip is from the hugely popular Clive Anderson show on the BBC. This is a year before Cook’s death and he plays four separate characters on the one night. There’s Norman House, who claims to have been abducted by aliens, my personal favourite Alan Latchley a failed soccer manager, Judge Sir James Beecham, and music guru, Eric Daly.





Cook was one of the chief organisers of the Secret Policemen’s Ball, a fundraiser for Amnesty International which were held a few times in the late 70’s. This sketch, The End sees Cook as the prophet and his followers contain a ‘who’s who’ of British comedy.




John Cleese describes the next sketch as the highlight of his career working with his hero on Interesting Facts at The Secret Policemen’s Ball.





The classic Tarzan sketch or One Leg Too Few from the early 60’s written by Cook when he was aged 18.




This is Cook doing his classic interpretation of an English upper class father discussing sex education with his son in A Bit of a Chat.




My favourite character of Cook’s has always been Sir Arthur Streeb Greebling. I love tragic, unashamedly under achieving comic characters and Sir Arthur is the greatest.

A privileged, entitled, blue blood fool is probably the best way to describe him. This is Teaching Ravens how to Fly Underwater followed by my all time favourite sketch from anyone, The Frog and Peach.

The final statement from Sir Arthur in The Frog and Peach is my favourite quote of all time. “I have learned from my mistakes, and I’m sure I can repeat them exactly“.






Also posted here is a brilliant fifty minute interview by satirist Chris Morris with Sir Arthur shortly before Cook died and was released by the BBC on CD called Why Bother. It’s as brilliant as it is bizarre.





Part 1: #27 – #20 can be read HERE


Part 2: #15 – #19 can be read HERE


Part 3: #12 – #14 can be read HERE


Part 4: #11 can be read HERE


Part 5: #9 – #10 can be read HERE



Read more from Ian Wilson HERE



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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. Ad Nauseam! Crikey.

    A confronting laugh-fest.

    Peter Cook was brilliant.

  2. Certified genius Dips! Cheers

  3. Thanks for this, Ian.

    To say that Peter Cook was a genius is possibly selling him short.

    I loved the sheer lunacy and audacity of a the Derek and Clive cassettes when I was a teen.

    I once saw a clip on YouTube of Cook and Moore on a talk show in the US. Relations were obviously strained – apparently Cook was extremely jealous of Moore’s Hollywood success in “Arthur” and the like – but they began riffing and bouncing off each other like it was a sixth sense to them.

  4. Yes I remember that Smokie. They did manage to reconcile around the time of The Secret Policeman’s Ball thankfully as it would have been a real shame to have destroyed what they achieved together. Cheers

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