PETER COOK AND DUDLEY MOORE

THE FROG AND PEACH

From ONCE MORE WITH COOK
adapted from the BBC TV series
NOT ONLY BUT ALSO (1966) 

transcribed by Judy Harris

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Peter Cook Appreciation Society
15 Temple Dwellings
Temple Street, Bethnal Green
London E2 6QG
PC: Good evening.
DM: Good evening.
PC: Good evening.
DM: Good evening. We're talking this evening to Sir Arthur Greeb-Streebling.
PC:Streeb-Greebling.
DM: Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I thought it was Greeb-Streebling.
PC: No, Streeb-Greebling. You're thinking of Greeb-Streebling. The "T" is silent, as in "fox". Good evening.
DM: Good evening.
PC: Good evening.
DM: Good evening.
PC:Good Greebling.
DM:We'd like to ask Sir Arthur actually about his rather unique restaurant, the Frog and Peach.
PC: Good evening.
DM:Good evening. If you would tell us something about it, Sir. Arthur.
PC: Yes, well, ah, the idea for the Frog and Peach came to me in the bath. A great number of things come to me in the bath, mainly sort of mosquitoes and adders, but in this case a rather stupendous idea. I suddenly thought, as I was scrubbing my back with a loofah, I thought, "Where can a young couple, who are having an evening out, not too much money, and they want to have a decent meal, y'know, a decent frog and a nice bit of peach, where can they go and get it?" And answer came there none. And so I had this idea of starting a restaurant specializing in these frogs legs and, er, peaches, and on this premise I built this restaurant.
DM: These premises, in fact.
PC: In these precise premises. Good evening.
DM: How long ago did you start this venture? Was it recently?
PC: It was certainly within living memory. Shortly after the First World War.
DM: Ghastly business, wasn't it?
PC: Oh, absolutely ghastly business. And, er, I started it shortly after that and ever since then, it's sort of been here, y'know.
DM:And how has business been?
PC: Well, ah, business hasn't been, in the strict sense of the word. Rather, let me answer that question in two parts. There hasn't been any business and nobody's been. It's been a quiet time for the last 15-18 years, really, in the business.
DM: But don't you feel in a way you're at some disadvantage being stuck out in the middle of Dartmoor here?
PC: I think the word "disadvantage" is awfully well chosen there, yes.   This is what we're at. We're at a disadvantage. You see, when I had the idea, I weighed up the pros and cons and I came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, or possibly both -
DM: Or neither.
PC:Or neither, or nye-the, as they say in some part of the country.
DM:Or cointreau.
PC: Indeed. I thought that the pros outweighed the cons by two and a half ounces, and I thought the people in Britain were crying out for a restaurant where there wasn't any parking problem. In fact, I heard somebody in the street crying out for a restaurant without a parking problem. Norwegian sailor, I believe, on leave. He was saying, "Oh, for a restaurant without a parking problem!" And this sort of inspired me to start this one. There's no parking problem here, situated as we are in the middle of a bog in the heart of Dartmoor. No difficulty parking. Some difficultly extricating your car, but otherwise well-situated. Good evening.
DM:Good evening. Don't you feel, again, you're at a disadvantage because of your menu? I mean -
PC: The menu! Oh dear! Yes, that is - Oh! This has been a terrible hindrance to us building up a business. The menu is the most - have you seen it?
DM:Yes, I have.
PC: It's the most appalling thing. There's so little to choose from.  You start with - what's that?
DM: Spawn cocktail.
PC: Spawn cocktail. One of the most revolting dishes known to man. Then there's only two other dishes really. There's frog a la peche, which is a frog done in Cointreau and with a peach stuffed in its mouth And, ah, then, of course, there's peche a la frog, which is really not much to write home about. A waiter comes to your table. He's got this huge peach on it, which is covered in boiling liqueur, you see, and he slices it open to reveal about two thousand little black tadpoles squiggling about. It's one of the most disgusting sights I've ever seen. God, it turns me over to think of it. Squiggle, squiggle, they go.
DM: Rather nauseating. Who does the cooking?
PC:My wife does the cooking and, luckily, she does the eating as well.  An amazing creature. Of course, she's not a well woman.
DM:No.
PC: Not a well woman at all, so she very much resents having to go down the well every morning to sprinkle "Swoop" on the toads. An amazing creature, my wife, an amazing creature.
DM: Yes.
PC:I met her during the war actually.
DM: You did?
PC: Yes, she blew in through the drawing room window with a bit of shrapnel, became embedded in the sofa and, you know, one thing led to her mother and we were married in the hour.
DM: Um, yes, I suppose actually -
PC: Would you like some pond water?
DM: No, I won't actually.
PC: It's two shillings.
DM: No, no.
PC: It's revolting stuff. I wouldn't touch it.
DM: No....er, um
PC: Good evening.
DM: Good evening.
PC: What are you about to ask me about?
DM: I'm about to ask you, um, I suppose this sort of menu could, in fact, appeal to the French.
PC: It could appeal to the French and I've tried appealing to the French over Radio Streeb-Greebling which, as you know, is situated in the moat, not a stone's throw from here, but, ah, the response has been - oh - it's not been excessive.
DM:No.
PC: It's been nil.
DM: Well, it all sounds rather disastrous to me.
PC: Catastrophic, I think, would be a better word, really, for it.
DM: Do you have any other plans for other business ventures?
PC: Nnnnn-- yes and no. I thought of starting a sort of sophisticated restaurant with kind of, ah, sophisticated music somewhere up in Peebleshire. Somewhere where a young couple who're out for the evening, y'see, who've got about 85 guineas to spend to get a really decent meal.
DM:Hmm. What are you going to call it?
PC: The Vole and Pea.
DM: What sort of food?
PC: Well, ah, I was thinking largely: simple English roast vole, you know and, ah, a decent British pea. Put the two together and I think you're on pretty good ground.
DM:Y-e-s-s, indeed. Do you feel you've learnt by your mistakes here?
PC: I think I have, yes, and I think I can probably repeat them almost perfectly. I know my mistakes inside out.
DM: I'm sure you will repeat them. Well, thank you very much, Sir Arthur.
PC: Thank you very much.
DM: And good night.
PC: Would you like one for the toad?
DM: No, thank you.
© The Estate of Peter Cook 1966, 1996

Click here for a 1-minute soundbyte of Peter Cook, as a repressed father, attempting to teach the facts of life to Dudley, as a naive 17 year old son.


Here's another Dud and Pete excerpt, which was part of a programme made especially for America on the occasion of the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

Pete and Dud are standing in Madame Tussaud's, surrounded by wax effigies.

PETE: You've been standing there for hours and I'm afraid you're still not taller than Princess Margaret.
DUD:  Oh really, how very disappointing.
PC:  Nope, you're not.
DM: I thought I'd be taller than at least one member of the Royal Family.
PC:  Well you might be taller than Anthony Armstrong-Jones, but of course he's been melted down and recycled since the separation.
DM:  I gather he's become part of Margaret Thatcher's tie.
PC:  That's right! A very nice place to be. Yes, a super place to be.
DM:  I must say I do feel the whole idea of Madame Tussaud's, er, for these wax effigies, is really super.
PC:  Tremendous. She deserves a round of applause, I think.
DM:  I think the Queen must be especially grateful for it because, you know, being so busy she can bung one of these wax effigies –
PC: - in the coach –
DM: - when she can't get round to doing something. Frightfully useful.
PC: So she just bungs out an effigy.
DM: Yes.
PC: One thing that puzzles me. Perhaps you know the answer. You know that radiant smile she has? The one that she uses to win the hearts and minds of people?
DM: Right.
PC: How do they get that on an effigy?
DM: Oh, they do that electronically from the Palace.
PC: Oh, laser beams!
DM: Yes, yes. So what you're seeing is really happening 20 years ago.
PC: Oh, I understand.
DM: Ingenious device.
PC: The coach, I suppose, has to be air-conditioned...
DM:  Naturally, otherwise the wax melts down to a disagreeable mess...


The following is an excerpt from the book PETER COOK REMEMBERED, edited by Lin Cook © 1996 by Christopher Hitchens, who interviewed Dudley Moore for this tribute after Peter's death.  Dudley said:  I loved performing with Peter in the latter years of BEYOND THE FRINGE and, although I had the least speaking to do in the show, I got to perform with him more and more.  The dialogue from the floor that we had in CIVIL DEFENSE, where I ask how long it will be before normal service is resumed after nuclear Armageddon, and he says he expects something in the nature of a skeleton service, was the start of it.  That and the one-legged Tarzan sketch. Jonathan [Miller] could play Mr. Spiggot, the unidexter artiste, but he never really got his essential optimism.  So when, in 1966 or so, I was asked to do a [British TV] show produced by Joe McGrath, our first director, I asked Peter.  But it could have just as well been Alan [Bennett].  This is what became NOT ONLY...BUT ALSO.  It was originally called NOT ONLY DUDLEY MORE BUT ALSO PETER COOK, which I later rearranged in alphabetical order to avoid upsetting him.

We were improvising in his living-room at 17 Church Row and he started up:  "My wife's not a well woman.  That's why she doesn't like going to the well. . . I met my wife during the war.  She blew in through the window on a piece of shrapnel, and became embedded in the sofa, and one thing led to my mother, and we were married within the hour."  The amazing thing is that it was just like that.  No warning - he just started coming out with it.

We would get together and improvise into a tape recorder, and then listen. I would do headings of things that we both liked and we would erase the rest and then do it again.  We'd do it up to four or five times.  A rather higgledy-piggledy approach.  Any improvising after that would depend on the response of the audience.  But the audience had a tendency to like what we liked, so we didn't alter very much.

So the show [NOBA] went well.  [In the first episode] we did a long sketch about a janitor in a West End club where only after a bit do you realize that the club is a public toilet.  A khazi.  John Lennon played the janitor.  Peter came up with the line, "This is where the big nobs hang out."  I did a parody of the Swingle Singers.

The art gallery sketch is still my favourite, because it was so free and easy.  We were alive to each other's idiosyncrasies and we had a lot of fun.  When I think back on it, I wince because, really, it was very risky to rely on that first run-through.  There was no safety-net, and no back-up tape.  We relied on mad reminiscences, like being on the top of a bus while I talk about my experiences at school.  Another I remember is of me waking up in a drawer full of socks, and Peter smacking me awake with a cricket bat and saying "Thank God you're not Jewish."  It slowly emerges that I'm being born again and I'm nine hours late and the doctor is trying to make me cry.  There was one [sketch] that didn't get shown.  It was an Elf and Tinkerbell sketch, quite dirty, with a randy Tinkerbell who has it off with a water-boatman.  

Peter could gum on a moustache and put on a deerstalker and become Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling ... "Good evening...Good Greebling...the "f' is silent as in fox.  Of course, we're training ravens here, training them to fly under water.  Knee-deep in feathers.".

Regarding FRINGE:  I do remember the way he used to come on as a messenger in SO THAT'S THE WAY YOU LIKE IT, wearing a crown and carrying a sword and sliding to a kind of halt.  And I remember that he never forgot his words.  Ever.  He was more at home with what he wrote than what others wrote, of course, but we tended to keep what he wrote in any case. We used to cheer Pete on when he was doing the Judge sketch -- we'd settle downstage left and encourage him with gestures.  The audience couldn't see us but we were just willing him to take off, and he often did.  Mind you, it got longer and longer and sometimes it got very boring.  He used to be willing to bore people with endless monologues as long as he could exit on a laugh.


NOT ONLY BUT ALSO LINK

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore: Grand Old Men of Comedy

Part one of a three-part series by James Kew

THE EARLY YEARS

Peter Cook was born on the 17th of November, 1937. While still at school he began writing comic material, including several items for the magazine "Punch" as well as some pieces performed within the school. Avoiding National Service through a fortuitous allergy to feather pillows, he spend a year in France and Germany, where he visited a number of satirical nightclubs; it was here he had the idea of opening what would later become London's "Establishment" club.

In 1957 Cook went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, to study French and German literature. It took him a year to summon up enough courage to audition for the Footlights Club; he is quoted as saying, "I felt the Footlights was a tremendously elite club--I was too bashful to even consider applying for it." He took part in the 1959 revue, "The Last Laugh", and in 1960 became the president of Footlights, writing much of that year's revue, "Pop Goes Mrs Jessup". It was seen by the theatrical producer Michael Codron, who asked Cook to contribute material to a professional revue, "Pieces Of Eight", which played at London's Apollo Theatre in 1960. It was followed in 1961 by "One Over The Eight". In Cook's words, "By the time I left Cambridge I had acquired an agent, and was a 'professional writer'".

Dudley Moore was born on the 19th of April, 1937. He told the Observer in 1979: "I was a very serious pompous child. I spent the first seven years of my life siphoned off in hospital beds and wheelchairs with a club foot...It was my leg onto which I projected all my feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing." At school he took to clowning to avoid the inevitable bullying and teasing. A keen musician, he went on to study music at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became interested in the stage and cabaret and developed great skill in the jazz piano.

BEYOND THE FRINGE

In 1960 John Basset, another Oxford graduate, was assisting the organiser, Robert Ponsonby, of the Edinburgh Festival--an annual festival of music and drama. Many small theatre and revue companies also mount unofficial productions on the so-called "Fringe" of the Festival. Ponsonby had the idea that the Festival should have its own official late-night revue; Basset suggested Dudley Moore and another Oxford man, Alan Bennett, and suggested that they be balanced by two Cambridge people, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller.

The revue was given the title "Beyond The Fringe", and comprised of the best of the foursome's solo material with some new sketches. It opened to excellent critical reaction at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in August 1960, and moved via Cambridge and Brighton to London's Fortune Theatre, where it opened in May 1961. Much of the humour in the show is gentle; Alan Bennett gave an earnestly-delivered spoof sermon, Dudley Moore provided a number of musical interludes, Jonathan Miller delivered a whimsical monologue about the startling number of trousers found in railway Lost Property offices. The sketches poke fun at existing institutions, rather than, as was common in previous revues, putting the performers into imaginary situations. Jonathan Miller: "We resolved not to make these conditional propositions, which were always the basis of old-fashioned revue--'wouldn't it be funny if...'. Our idea was 'isn't it funny that...'--let's observe what actually goes on, imitate it, and remind people by the shock of recognition how absurd things are." Alan Bennett remarks: "It did actually treat the audience as intelligent people who read the papers."

Peter Cook contributed to most of the new sketches, and performed a monologue, "Sitting On The Bench", a rambling conversational piece in typical deadpan style delivered by a coal miner who wanted to be a judge.
Cook: Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judging, I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigorous judging exams. They're noted for their rigor. People come out saying, "My God, what a rigorous exam"--and so I became a miner instead. A coal miner. I managed to get through the mining exams--they're not rigorous, they only ask one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that.

Dudley Moore recalls feeling rather intimidated by the other performers: "I don't recall much of the writing process...perhaps because I felt fairly futile in its creativity. I had to win my laurels eventually it seemed through my abilities as a performer." His musical pieces were well received. "I had to construct a solo...I decided to write a sonata movement using one of the silliest songs I knew and one of the greatest composers...Thus, I chose the 'Colonel Bogey March' as used in the film 'Bridge Over The River Kwai' and worked it in the style of Beethoven."

"Beyond The Fringe"; was immediately hailed as a satirical masterpiece; a label that the performers found a little uncomfortable. Jonathan Miller: "None of us approached the world with a satirical indignation. There were targets we wanted to hit--I was interested in lampooning productions of Shakespeare, not because I had a burning indignation against them but because I just wanted to get them right." Peter Cook: "Certain parts of it were satirical...'The Aftermyth Of War' upset quite a few people, who thought it was an attack on people who laid down their lives in the war, when in fact it was a parody of the films."
Cook: We're two down, and the ball's in the enemy court. War is a psychological thing, Perkins, rather like a game of football. You know how in a game of football ten men often play better than eleven?
Miller:  Yes, sir
Cook: Perkins, we are asking you to be that one man. I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war. Get up in a crate, Perkins, pop over to Bremen, take a shufti, don't come back. Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going too.
Miller:  Goodbye, sir--or is it--au revoir?
Cook: No, Perkins.

One of the most controversial sketches was Peter Cook's impersonation of the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. Cook: "My impersonation of Macmillan was in fact extremely affectionate...but merely because it was the first time for some years that a living Prime Minister had been impersonated on stage, a great deal of weight was attached to it." Macmillan visited the show one evening; Alan Bennett recalls: "Peter has a kind of madness on stage...he has the kind of self-confidence which doesn't take into account audience reactions. One evening Macmillan came to the show. Peter therefore went several steps further, remarking on the Prime Minister's presence in the audience. Macmillan buried his face in the programme, and the audience, out of embarrassment, gradually froze. This didn't stop Peter. On he plunged. Someone with less self-confidence would have been guided by the atmosphere."

The show ran for over a year, until the cast took it to America, when it continues for another four years with a substitute cast.

"Beyond The Fringe" opened in October 1962 at New York's John Golden Theatre, where it ran for about a year, returning in 1964 in a slightly revised form with Paxton Whitehead replacing Jonathan Miller.

"Beyond The Fringe" changed British theatre and revue immeasurably-- old-fashioned revue disappeared completely from London. By pointing humour at previously unexplored targets it opened the road for the new wave of satirical comedy which emerged in the 1960s. Dudley Moore: "They were exotic years and exotic experiences...I don't think I ever had such grand excitement." Peter Cook: "I may have done some other things as good but I am sure none better. I haven't matured, progressed, grown, become deeper, wiser or funnier. But then, I never thought I would."

THE ESTABLISHMENT

Peter Cook was the only member of the "Beyond The Fringe" team with a conscious desire to be satirical. His experiences of political cabaret during his visit to France and Germany gave him the idea to open his own club and having made some money from his writing, he began putting his plan in motion before "Beyond The Fringe" even opened in London.

He got together with the treasurer of Footlights, Nick Luard, and they managed to negotiate a lease on an old strip-tease club in Soho's Greek Street. Cook: "It was all quite chaotic. Because of the advance publicity, about seven thousand people joined before it had even opened: they joined on the idea, at two guineas a time, which roughly financed the opening of it." An excellent cast, including John Fortune, John Bird and Eleanor Bron performed nightly shows at the new club, "The Establishment", with frequent guest appearances.

Cook recalls: "I was very very lucky with the cast I got. I also persuaded Dudley Moore to play with his trio down in the basement, at slave labour rates, but he just enjoyed himself a lot and had a fantastic opportunity to meet young women. For two years it was a great place, which I still look back on with tremendous fondness. There was all the excitement of  bringing Lenny Bruce over...those were tremendous times. Some of the things we did are as outrageous as anything that has been done subsequently. I think more so...extremely bad taste flourished at "The Establishment"."

The cast of "The Establishment" later moved to the States, arriving shortly after "Beyond The Fringe". Their new brand of comedy was well-received, and led to an offer of a TV show from Ed Sullivan. The show was to be directed by Jonathan Miller, but the restrictive nature of network TV led to insurmountable difficulties, and the show was never made.

Without the key members of its original cast, and suffering certain financial difficulties, the London "Establishment" was running into trouble. It was taken over and went rapidly down-market. On his return from America, Peter Cook was offered his half-interest back by the new owners. Cook: "I took one look at the club and said 'No'. The whole atmosphere had gone--the place was filled with rather large men, and I didn't think it was salvageable. And so I got out; that was the end of "The Establishment" for me." The club soon became just a typical Soho nightclub and was later converted to a blue-movie cinema.

At about the same time "The Establishment" opened, the satirical magazine "Private Eye" began publication. It was a joint venture between Richard Ingrams, Christopher Booker and William Rushton. By April 1962, however, the "Eye" was in danger of sinking through lack of finances. Peter Cook had hoped to start a magazine after the success of  The Establishment", but was beaten to it by "Private Eye". He now came to its rescue, and he and Christopher Luard became majority shareholders. Under Cook's guardianship, "Private Eye" prospered, gaining a reputation for scurrilous exposés and their accompanying libel suits; it continues to this day.

by James Kew, j.kew@ic.ac.uk

Part two of a three-part series.

NOT ONLY...BUT ALSO...

On his return from the American run of "Beyond The Fringe", Peter Cook was invited to appear in Bernard Braden's series, "On The Braden Beat", where he performed twenty or so monologues, further developing the character he had  introduced in "Beyond The Fringe", and giving him a name: E. L. Wisty. The pieces were usually improvised to tape the day before filming;

Cook would then read them from autocue, staring straight at the audience, eyes glazed and unsmiling, seemingly impervious to the audience's laughter. Wisty would hold forth in his droning monotone on the subject of the week, rambling aimlessly, filling in the yawning gaps in his knowledge with totally spurious "facts".

Cook     I've always wanted to be an expert on tadpoles. I've always fancied being a tadpole expert. It's a wonderful life if you become an expertii tadpolius, as they're known in the trade. You get invited out to all the smart parties and social gatherings. When smart people are making out their lists for the dinner parties they say, "Now who can we have to make up the ten? A tadpole expert would be very nice, he can sit next to Lady Sonia." And at all the smart functions people come up to you and say, "I hear you're a tadpole expert. Tell me, what are tadpoles really like?" And lovely ladies invite you back to their flat and say, "You know, I'm longing to hear about your tadpoles. Hang on a minute while I slip into a gossamer trenchcoat."

The BBC asked Dudley Moore to do in a one-off television show, "Offbeat". He invited Cook to join him, and Cook wrote two sketches, one featuring two cloth-capped buffoons discussing their imaginary liaisons with various film stars (Dud and Pete), and one about an upper-class twit (Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling) who has spent the last forty years attempting to teach ravens to fly underwater.
Moore: How do you manage to breathe underwater?
Cook: Oh, that's completely impossible, nobody can breathe underwater. That's what makes it so difficult. I have to keep bobbing to the surface every thirty seconds. Makes it impossible to conduct a sustained training programme on the ravens. And they're no better, they can't even be taught to hold their beaks. Horrible little animals. There they are, sitting on me wrist, I say, "Fly, fly, you devils!" and they inhale a faceful of water and, er...
Moore: I suppose they drown, don't they?
Cook: It's curtains, yes. They drown, and, er, topple off me wrist. Little black feathery figure topples off me wrist, spirals very slowly down to a watery grave. We're knee-deep in feathers off that part of the coast.

The BBC were very pleased with the result, and Cook and Moore were offered their own programme, "Not Only...But Also...", which ran for three series in 1965, 66 and 70--the last series being made in colour. Much of the archive material has been lost or destroyed by the BBC, but sufficient footage was found and restored to make up 6 compilation episodes, which were transmitted in 1990.

"Not Only...But Also..." featured Cook and Moore's most enduring characters: the fumbling cloth-capped idiots Dud and Pete.

Cook:      "Pete is the informed idiot, and Dud is the uninformed idiot. They're both idiots, but Pete is always slightly superior. In fact, he knows nothing either." They appeared in numerous sketches, ruminating about life in general. The sketches were surprisingly long for the period, often running to eight or ten minutes, and have an improvised feel. Peter Cook: "We didn't have scripts as such, we had a lot of headings--we'd rehearsed a lot, and we knew roughly what we were going to say, but not word-for-word." In one sketch, Dud and Pete meet in an art gallery:
Dud: Here, have a sandwich. My feet are killing me.
Pete: What's that got to do with the sandwich?
Dud: Nothing, I just said it afterwards, that's all.
Pete: Well, you shouldn't say things like that together, it could confuse a stupid person

They go on to discuss Vernon Ward duck paintings:

Pete: If you look at his ducks, you see the eyes follow you around the room.
Dud: You noticed that?
Pete: Yer, when you see sixteen of his ducks, you see thirty-two little eyes follow you round the room.
Dud: No, you only see sixteen because they're flying sideways and you can't see the other eye on the other side. He never does a frontal duck.
Pete: No, but you get the impression, Dud, that the other eye is craning round the beak to look at you, don't you. That's a sign of a good painting, Dud.

This leads to an examination of Cezanne's "Les Grandes Baigneuses":

Pete: The sign of a good painting when its people's backs towards you is if the bottoms follow you around the room.
Dud: If it's a good painting the bottoms will follow you around the room?
Pete: Right.
Dud: Shall I test it then?
Pete: They won't bloody budge, I'll tell you that much.
Dud: I can't look directly at the painting or else they'll know I'm looking and get all cagey.
Pete: Are they moving, Dud?
Dud: I think they're following me, Pete.
Pete: I don't think they are, Dud.
Dud: I reckon they are, Pete.
Pete: No, those bottoms aren't following you around the room, your eyes are following the bottoms around the room.
Dud: The same thing, isn't it?
Pete: Course it isn't. There's a world of difference between being followed by a bottom and you following a bottom.

Other memorable sketches include "SuperThunderStingCar", a viciously well-observed spoof of Gerry Anderson's puppet series, "Thunderbirds"; "The Glid Of Glood", an odd fairy-tale told entirely in rhyming verse; and "Bargo", a documentary on the reclusive Finnish star Emma Bargo, played by a surprisingly convincing Peter Cook.

The shows had a musical interlude, provided by the Dudley Moore Trio, Moore's jazz band, with a special guest each week.

The show ended with Cook and Moore singing "Goodbye-ee" in a very affected twenties fashion, which became their signature tune and was a minor hit when released as a single.

A series of three hour-long programmes, "Goodbye Again", was produced for ITV in 1968. They were intended for the American market, and featured a guest American comedian each episode; however, they failed to live up to the quality of "Not Only...But Also...", due in part to dissatisfaction with the hour-long format and a personality clash with the director.

Peter Cook returned to television in 1971, when the BBC asked him to front a chat show, "Where Do I Sit?" It was, by all accounts, an unmitigated disaster. Cook, unsure of his ability to handle such a show, asked for a pilot, but the BBC pressed ahead with a series of thirteen. They were slightly worried by his insistence on making the shows live; Cook says, looking  back:  "I said people will enjoy disasters if they happen. And sure enough, disasters did happen. I found out on that first programme that I was no good at talking to people on television." The shows got good viewing figures, but disastrous reviews in the papers, and the BBC cancelled the series after three shows.

In the summer of 1971 Cook and Moore went to Australia to make two TV shows for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, shown in Britain as "Pete And Dud Down Under". They also compiled a new stage show, "Behind The Fridge", which ran successfully in Australia before opening in London in October 1972. The show went to America under the title "Good Evening", running on Broadway for a year and subsequently touring.

by James Kew, j.kew@ic.ac.uk

This is the conclusion of a series of articles on Cook and Moore written prior to Cook's death. We've decided to keep the article as it was originally written.

FILMS

In 1967 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore made the film "Bedazzled", which came from an idea he and Moore had. Dudley plays Stanley Moon, an inadequate burger-bar cook infatuated with a waitress (Eleanor Bron). After an attempt to kill himself, be meets a George Spigott (Cook), who he later discovers is the Devil, and who offers Stanley seven wishes in exchange for his soul.

Each wish Stanley uses is, in effect, a self-contained sketch, linked together by the narrative device of Stanley's growing friendship with George. One sketch borrowed an idea from "Not Only...But Also...": Stanley, having specified that he and his beloved should enjoy eternal love in quiet surroundings, finds that they are both nuns of The Order of Leaping Berelians--a bizarre order who dedicate themselves to the Lord by perpetual leaping. (This leads to be one of the all-time funniest moments in movie history: Dudley Moore, a nun's habit, and a trampoline. Enough said.)

"Bedazzled" was given mixed reviews by British critics, who compared it unfavorably with their television work. Abroad, however, it was popular and given rave reviews. Cook has described it as the only film he's ever worked on that he's  remotely satisfied with.

Between "Goodbye Again" and 1970's third series of "Not Only...But Also" Cook and Moore made a string of uninspiring film appearances. Cook appeared in the 1968 thriller "A Dandy In Aspic", playing a straight part; Moore co-wrote and starred in "Thirty Is A Dangerous Age, Cynthia"; and in 1969 they both appeared in "Monte Carlo Or Bust!" (known in America as "Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies"). They did not return to film until 1978's "The Hound Of The Baskervilles", a Sherlock Holmes movie made "from the point of view of the dog," according to Cook. That may have been why it turned out to be a mess of a movie.

Dudley Moore continued his film career. A cameo in "Foul Play" led to his breakthrough role in the Blake Edward film "10". He starred opposite Bo Derek. Moore earned a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of cocktail pianist George Webber and became one of Hollywood's most unlikeliest sex symbols.

Further success came in 1981 with "Arthur", in which he played the happy drunk millionaire Arthur Bach. He falls in love with Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli), and finds he must choose between riches and happiness. John Gielgud filled Cook's shoes as Moore's sidekick butler Hobson, and the interactions between Moore and Gielgud provided much of the comedy. Moore deservedly received a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination; John Gielgud won a best-supporting-actor Oscar.

Moore has since starred in a number of films, including "Lovesick", "Micki And Maude" and the uninspiring sequel, "Arthur 2:  On The Rocks", of which few have lived up to his earlier successes.

DEREK AND CLIVE

A departure in style are the "Derek and Clive" recordings. The first album, "Derek and Clive Live" was originally recorded privately during the New York run of "Good Evening"; inevitably, the tapes "escaped" and multiplied on the bootleg circuit. In 1976, three years later, Cook and Moore relented and issued the material on an LP. Their reluctance was due to the nature of the material, much of which depended on language and subject material which made them quite unsuitable for public distribution. The albums "Come Again" (1977) and "Ad Nauseam" (1978) were released after the relative success of "Derek and Clive Live".

The comedy on these three albums is rough, improvised stuff delivered by a clearly inebriated Cook and Moore. There is much which is still shocking today: Derek and Clive argue, screeching expletives at each other; Derek composes a filthy song about his mother; a "Bo Duddley" song is dissected in a manner which veers uncomfortably close to racism. There are moments of sheer brilliance, however: Cook's sketch "Horse Racing", a masterpiece of vulgar double-entendre; the rambling 25 minute piece "The Horn", which ends in a vicious spoof of the Moonlight Sonata; "Squatter and the Ant", a surreally twisted war memoir in which two crusty colonials recount the story of a lone fighter facing a menacing ant.

Derek and Clive have been variously described as "Pete and Dud on speed" and "a punk Pete and Dud", and the rambling, freewheeling style is certainly reminiscent of Cook and Moore's earlier characters. Maybe the description on the sleeve of "Derek and Clive Live" fits them best: "just a couple of c***s".

A film--"Derek and Clive Get The Horn"--was made of one of the "Ad Nauseam" recording sessions, and was recently re-released on video.

THE LATE YEARS

Peter Cook's career lately has been somewhat patchy. He continues his involvement in Private Eye, makes infrequent appearances on chat shows, where his ready wit and whimsical outlook is still very apparent, and takes the occasional cameo role in comedy films--notably appearing as the murderous Ralph Jolly in the Comic Strip feature, "Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door". His recent work has included a series of shorts for BBC2 based around the Twelve Days Of Christmas, voicing the animated version of the Viz cartoon "Roger Mellie--The Man On The Telly", and a sparkling special edition of "Clive Anderson Talks Back" in which he improvised the roles of all four of the show's guests.

Accused of some by laziness, he claims to have fulfilled all his ambitions by the age of 30. "Ambition can lead people to take some fairly desperate measures at times, and I am not that desperate."

Dudley Moore now lives in Los Angeles with his current wife, Nicole Rothschild, who he married in April 1994. He continues to work as an actor, his most notable films recently being "Crazy People" (1990), a satire on the advertising industry, and "Blame It On The Bell-Boy" (1992)--a "mistaken-identity" farce.

Music is still his greatest love, and he is an excellent pianist, giving charity performances and presenting two major TV series, "Orchestra!" and "Concerto!"

Books

"Beyond the Fringe...and Beyond: A Critical Biography of Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, and Dudley Moore" by Ronald Bergan (W.H. Allen 1989, 1-852-27175-2)

"From Fringe To Flying Circus" by Roger Wilmut (Methuen, 0-413-50770-X)

"The Complete Beyond The Fringe" by Bennett, Cook, Miller and Moore (Methuen, 0-413-14670-7)

"Dud and Pete--The Dagenham Dialogues" by Cook and Moore (Methuen, 0-7493-1036-7)

Video

"The Best Of...What's Left Of...Not Only...But Also..." (BBC Video)

"Derek and Clive Get The Horn" (Polygram)

Audio

"Beyond The Fringe" (2xCD, EMI) "An Evening With Peter Cook And Dudley Moore/E. L. Wisty" (Polygram cassette, 'funny business' series)

"The World Of Pete And Dud" (cassette, Laughing Stock)

"Peter Cook and Dudley Moore--The Clean Tapes" (cassette, Castle Classics)

"Derek and Clive--Live!" (Island)

"Come Again", "Ad Nauseam" (Virgin)


Five minutes from start to punchline

By William Cook

August 2, 2003

He didn't go in for satire or subversion. He just wanted to be funny, in quick-fire bursts. Peter Cook's genius was too original to classify.

Not only for his friends, who were lucky enough to enjoy his strange comic genius in private, but also for his fans, who could only marvel at his virtuoso humour in public, on the stage or screen, Peter Cook was simply the funniest man they'd ever encountered. And nine years after his death, his reputation as the most talented comedian of his generation shows no sign of shrinking.

"He had funniness in the same way that beautiful people have beauty," said Stephen Fry. And whenever he was being funny, there was always something quite beautiful about Peter Cook. John Cleese called him Peter Amadeus Cook, after Mozart, another prodigy whose precocious creativity felt like the gift of an unusually cheerful God. "Most of us would take six hours to write a good three-minute sketch," says Cleese. "It actually took Peter three minutes to write a three-minute sketch. I always thought he was the best of us, and the only one who came near being a genius."

Cook's comic rise and fall has become the stuff of showbiz legend. How he wrote a hit West End show for Kenneth Williams while he was still an undergraduate at Cambridge University. How, fresh out of college, he became a star in Beyond the Fringe - the wittiest revue that Britain, or America, had ever seen. How he opened Britain's first satirical nightclub, the Establishment, importing American comic Lenny Bruce, launching Australian comic Barry Humphries and resurrecting Frankie Howerd. How he saved Britain's sharpest satirical paper, Private Eye. How he starred alongside Dudley Moore in three series of Not Only But Also.

Cook wasn't a natural actor. He wasn't even an outright satirist. He wrote no plays or novels. Cook was a miniaturist. He was happiest when working with just a couple of characters. His speciality was a conversation of only several minutes duration. His quick-fire creativity didn't lend itself to longer, more structured genres. "Most of my ideas are only worth about five minutes," he admitted.

"He wasn't interested in satire at all," says the writer Alan Bennett, a contemporary. "He was interested in being funny." Like all true artists, Cook was keener on creating his own fantastic other-world than in changing the workaday world around him. "The idea that he had an anarchic, subversive view of society is complete nonsense," says Jonathan Miller, one of his colleagues from Beyond the Fringe. "He was the most upstanding, traditional upholder of everything English and everything establishment."

Cook supported worthy causes like Amnesty International, but he always recoiled from the sort of comedy that wants to bring down governments. He even felt sad for Margaret Thatcher when she left Downing Street.

Cook's comedy is curiously abstract. His characters inhabit a bizarre hinterland where a man can spend a lifetime trying to teach worms to talk, flowers to walk or ravens to fly underwater. Nevertheless, there is one aspect of his output that is entirely realistic. Like him, his principal alter egos, from Pete and Dud to Derek and Clive, from E.L. Wisty to Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, are typically, unapologetically English.

And like all Englishmen, they're all helpless prisoners of that terribly English caste system called social class. E.L. Wisty is trapped in the working class, without education or opportunities, but with a wistful yearning for adventure and achievement that he can never hope to fulfil. "I could have been a judge," says Wisty, "but I never had the Latin."

Conversely, Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling is trapped in the upper class, blessed with the wealth to do whatever he wants - but not the sense to know that what he's doing is totally futile. "I've learned from my mistakes," says Sir Arthur, "and I'm sure I can repeat them."

As the unique comic counterpoint between Cook and Moore developed, Moore's input increased, but even in their later series he still estimated that he wrote only about 30 per cent - less than half of Cook's contribution. Their special relationship can't be measured in mere percentages, however. Even in the early days, when Cook did most of the writing, Moore still played a crucial part. "Dudley's humour [was] not very largely verbal," says Bennett. "He [was] much more of a clown and mugged a lot and a very good person to bounce off." Miller adds: "It's very hard to imagine the success of the show without Dudley's talent as a performer."

Even when he wasn't writing, Moore's presence liberated Cook. At last, Cook had a partner to write for, a more cute and fragile character - a contrast and an antidote to Cook's more aloof and condescending style.

Like Lennon and McCartney, whom they knew and in some respects resembled, Cook's caustic wit was balanced by Moore's softer, homespun humour. Cook, like Lennon, could be too acerbic to appease mainstream opinion, while Moore, like McCartney, was sometimes too saccharine to win critical acclaim.

Yet as long as they stayed together, audiences had someone astute and sharp to marvel at, and someone warm and homely to relate to. "There was a sort of sweet, proletarian cuddlesome quality about Dudley," says Miller, "and then a lot of this strange, lunatic patrician obsession on the part of Peter." In Cook and Moore's comedy, the proletarian and the patrician collided.


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