Home » Entertainers » Comedians » Cook, Peter Edward

Cook, Peter Edward

Born: 1937 AD
Died: 1995 AD
Nationality: English
Categories: Comedians, Satirists, Writers

1937 – Cook was born at Devon, England on November 17, 1937.

1955 – With his star firmly in the ascendant, he opened The Establishment Club at 18, Greek Street in Soho which gave him the opportunity to present fellow comedians in a nightclub setting, including the controversial American Lenny Bruce. Cook befriended Australian comedian and actor Barry Humphries, who began his British career at the club, and Dudley Moore’s acclaimed jazz trio (which included Australian-born drummer Chris Karan) played there regularly.

1962 – The BBC commissioned a pilot for a television series of satirical sketches based on The Establishment Club, but it was not picked up straightaway and Cook and the other regulars went to New York for a year. When he returned, Cook discovered that the pilot had been refashioned as That Was The Week That Was and had made a star out of David Frost. The 1960s satire boom was coming to a close and Cook quipped that Britain would "sink into the sea under the weight of its own giggling". He later complained that David Frost’s success was largely based on him copying Cook’s screen persona and quipped that his only regret in life had been once saving Frost from drowning (an actual event).

1963 – He married the socially-connected Wendy Snowden, with whom he had two daughters.

1968 – Cook and Moore switched to Lew Grade’s ATV to produce a series of four one-hour programmes entitled Goodbye Again, based on the "Pete and Dud" characters. The duo knew they were the rationale for the series and as a result, ignored suggestions from the director and other cast. Sketches were therefore often drawn out to fill the running time. Cook would also rely on cue cards and ended up garbling parts of the script, forcing Moore to ad-lib. The series does contain some notable items, including a reprise of the Pete and Dud "Greta Garbo" routine and a sketch in which the pair mostly play themselves, discussing the breakdowns of their respective marriages. The show was not a popular success due in part to the publication of the ITV listings magazine, TV Times, being suspended due to a strike. John Cleese was a supporting cast member and elements of the series can be seen in the early Monty Python programmes of the following year.

1970 – Cook took over a project initiated by David Frost for a satirical film about an opinion pollster who rises to become President of Great Britain. Under Cook’s guidance, the character became modelled on Frost himself. The resulting film, The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, was not a great commercial success, although the cast contained many notable names of the period. 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 showbusiness friends and colleagues. For a time, the magazine was produced from the premises of The Establishment Club.

1976 – Cook appeared in the first show in April 1976, A Poke in the Eye (with a Sharp Stick), both as an individual performer and as a member of the cast of Beyond The Fringe, which reunited for the first time since the 1960s. Cook appeared doing monologues and also in skits with other comedic performers. He also made a cameo in a Monty Python sketch substituting for Eric Idle – the sole Python who declined to take part. Cook was prominently featured on the cast album of the show (which bore the same title) and in the film of the event, which was titled Pleasure At Her Majesty’s. This was the first time that Cook worked with producer Martin Lewis.

1979 – Cook performed at The Secret Policeman’s Ball – memorably teaming for a skit with John Cleese. Cleese was quoted as saying that he was thrilled to be working with someone he admired so much, and can be seen nearly corpsing at Cook during much of the "Interesting Facts" sketch, which opened both the stage show and the resulting film. He also perfomed a couple of solo pieces and a brief skit with old friend Eleanor Bron.

1980 – Spurred by his former partner Dudley Moore’s growing film star status, Cook moved briefly to Hollywood and appeared as an uptight English butler in a short-lived US television sitcom "The Two of Us", also making cameo appearances in a couple of undistinguished films.

1983 – Cook made a memorable appearance as King Richard III in "The Foretelling", the first episode of Blackadder. The show was a blend of Shakespeare, history, and total comic nonsense and Cook’s dry intensity complemented it as he played the king both before and after death.

1987 – Cook spent time working with Martin Lewis on a political satire about the upcoming 1988 US presidential elections. The project was written for HBO. Co-writer was John Lloyd, producer of Not the Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder and Spitting Image. (The script remained unproduced.) During a trip to Los Angeles to work on it, Lewis suggested that Cook team up with Dudley Moore for the US "Comic Relief" telethon for the homeless.

1989 – Cook married the Malaysian-born property developer Lin Chong. This marriage brought a beneficial change in the direction of his life, as he reduced his drinking and for a time was teetotal. He lived alone in an 18th-century house in Hampstead, once owned by H.G. Wells. His third wife lived in another house 100 yards away. Cook speculated that their domestic arrangement would be much more popular if more people could afford it. The comedian recounted his favorite pleasures in life — casual chit-chat, reading, sport, radio, television and the newspapers, food, drink and cigarettes, and pedantry. Writing and performing went unmentioned.

1993 – In December 1993, Cook appeared with Clive Anderson showcasing four completely new characters.

1995 – Cook died at the age of 57 on January 9, 1995.