About Peter Cook!

This is the stuff you should know about the influential, highly regarded, and basically just effortlessly hilarious comedian and cool guy Peter Cook.

The Basics

"They only ask one question. They say 'Who are you?', and I got 75% for that."
"Sitting on the Bench," Beyond the Fringe
  • Peter Cook was born November 17, 1937 in Torquay, Devon, England. He passed away on January 9, 1995.
  • Contrary to the anti-establishment style for which he would later become famous, he grew up in a very conservative, quiet family.
  • Cook attended Pembroke College at Cambridge University from 1957 to 1960, where he wrote and performed in the famous Footlights. He was made president of the club in 1960.
  • While still at university he wrote sketches for the comedian Kenneth Williams, including the iconic "One Leg Too Few."

The 1960s

"You'd like to be young and sexy and dynamic..."
George Spiggott, Bedazzled
  • After he graduated, Cook found success - alongside Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller, and Alan Bennett - with the comedy group Beyond the Fringe.
  • In a few Fringe shows, he savagely spoofed prime minister Harold Macmillan. This was and remains a huge deal because that kind of satire, with that much visibility and attention, was not common at the time.
  • Cook encouraged and supported the careers of others. He opened The Establishment in 1961, a comedy club that played host to lots of funny, now famous people. Cook also was a big supporter of the satirical Private Eye magazine.
  • Cook and Moore teamed up for the hit variety show Not Only... But Also, running from 1964 to 1970. It was originally supposed to be a vehicle for Moore, but after Cook guest starred in the pilot and they did that Cook and Moore double-act magic, the show became a twofer. We don't have all of the episodes of that show because the tapes were wiped by the BBC in the '70s. It's a thing they did with a lot of shows for some reason, but in this case it majorly sucked because Cook even offered to buy the tapes to preserve them.
  • In total, Cook and Moore starred (or featured in ensemble casts) in five films together: The Wrong Box (1966), Bedazzled (1967) - for which Cook also wrote the screenplay - The Bed Sitting Room (1969), Monte Carlo or Bust! (1969), and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978).

The 1970s

"Poet? Satirist? Philosopher? Comedian? Social commentator?"
  • Cook kicked off the decade starring in The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970). Not a hit. (Needs to gain cult status because it's a good film and I really like it.)
  • He tried his hand at hosting a talk show - titled Where Do I Sit? - in 1971; three episodes in, it was canceled. Not a hit.
  • Cook and Moore started touring a show in 1971 called Behind the Fridge. They won a Tony and a Grammy for it. It's a hit!
  • 1976 saw the official release - as Derek and Clive (Live) - of an LP of recordings Cook and Moore did as those titular characters. It was a popular bootleg before then and as a legal sort of thing it was popular, too. Moore is Derek, Cook is Clive, and they're dirty, disgusting, and to some, pretty darn delightful mutations of the cuddly Pete and Dud. (Confession: I only recently came around to digging their dirt!)
  • Also in 1976, Cook and Moore paired up to host an episode of American perennial TV treasure Saturday Night Live.
  • Cook acted as a sort of host-like commentator on Revolver in 1978. (This ITV music show only ran for one series but is notable to me because Kate Bush performed in one episode and how cool is that? Two of my faves in one show, nice.)
  • Not only comedy but also music-type things: Cook did it all. There's the 1977 concept album, Consequences, that he worked on with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme (of 10cc fame). He also featured in comedy bits on a couple Sparks B-sides released in 1979. And Moore and Cook conquered the acid house scene via samples taken from their Derek and Clive "Bo Duddley" sketch used in A Guy Called Gerald's 1988 hit "Voodoo Ray."

The 1980s and 1990s

"Oh dear. I find I'm watching television that night."
  • Cook was on TV a lot in the '80s and '90s. In the US he featured in the '81-'82 sitcom The Two of Us, and back in the UK he showed up as Richard III in the very first episode of the seminal British series Blackadder (then titled The Black Adder). In 1987 Cook appeared as the title character in The Comic Strip Presents' TV film Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door; the next year, he was a contestant on Whose Line Is It Anyway? And December 1993 saw Cook appear as four different characters on an episode of Clive Anderson Talks Back.
  • He was on the big screen and heard on various-sized radios, too. He featured in and worked on a rewrite for 1983's pirate caper Yellowbeard and was the "Impressive Clergyman" in 1987's The Princess Bride. In 1988, just for yuks, not even for money or anything, he started calling in to Clive Bull's radio show as "Sven," a fisherman from Norway. Because he could. And in 1994, interviews recorded in 1993 (in character as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling) with Chris Morris were broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as Why Bother?


"The end of an extremely witty line."
Clive, "The Critics," Derek & Clive Ad Nauseam
  • So Peter Cook drank an awful lot, which was a running problem throughout his career. Upon his death from gastrointestinal hemorrhage on January 9, 1995, some critics said that his drinking contributed to him "wasting" his career as the years went by.
  • Well! Stephen Fry didn't like that critical interpretation of Cook's life, so he appeared on the BBC's The Late Show the night after Cook's death and spoke out in defense of his friend. Nice!

And Beyond

"Peter Cook was the best of us, and the only one who came near being a genius."
  • Cook's well- and highly-regarded legacy speaks for itself. But if you need convincing: dude's got a book about him written by a bunch of friends. TV movies and documentaries (there have been a few), plays (here's one of several), and plaques (more than one!) feature and celebrate the man. Over 300 comedians voted for Cook as the #1 Comedians' Comedian in a 2004 TV show of the same name. More than anything, though, his comedy holds its own even today. It doesn't get old, it doesn't fall flat. He still makes people laugh.
  • And just now, you've read to the end of a bio about the guy. Cook's legacy lives on!


  • Cook, Peter, and William Cook. Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook. London: Arrow, 2003.
  • "Peter Cook." Wikipedia. Accessed February 11, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cook. (Yeah, Wikipedia, I know. But its "Further reading" and "References" sections are legit.)
  • Thompson, Harry. Peter Cook: A Biography. London: Sceptre, 1998.