The Establishment
 Pub & Bed
 The Spiggott
 Rainbow Tapes
 Clive Anderson
 Derek & Clive
 Dudley Moore
Coming Soon
 Coming Soon
. . .
The Establishment

Clive Anderson Talksback

Peter Cook Biography pt04
the end
by Peter Gordon
further reading
 Peter Cook Presents The Misty Mr. Wisty LP
audio files taken from the wonderful 1965 album.
 Peter Cook Docu
as we were asked to contribute 'ideas' for the Carlton TV "Legends" docu, I thought I'd make it available via the site.

 Would you like us to notify you, via email, each time we update The Establishment?

 Hosted by Yahoo!, this list is used only to announce updates at and is in no way supposed to replace the Peter Cook eMail List.


In 1988 a London local radio station, LBC, began receiving some rather strange calls to one it's phone-in shows. The programme was hosted by Clive Bull and went out, unheard by most of the world, between four and six o'clock in the morning and the caller was Sven, a Norwegian fisherman living in Swiss Cottage whose twin obsessions were fish and Jutte, his estranged girlfriend. Sven was, in fact, Cook. Quite why he thought it amusing to call an obscure radio show anonymously at a time when virtually no-one would have heard him is a mystery Cook took with him to the grave - a cry for help, a way of communicating his inner most thoughts on the only platform he knew, the media, or something to do for a laugh when he was a bit pissed? [See also P&B #12 & 13]. The calls went on, on and off, for the next four years and marked a different era for Cook, a more introspective one, where comic displays were mainly reserved for friends and visitors to his house in Perrins Walk and, from now until his death, he only embarked on four major new creative public projects.

He carried on supplying small, undemanding film roles such as Getting It Right (1989), a diverting romantic comedy, and Great Balls Of Fire! (1989), a biopic of Jerry Lee Lewis with Cook as troublesome journalist. Cook did, however, manage to re-unite with Moore for a few brief appearances. They had appeared together in the 1987 American version of Comic Relief, performing One Leg Too Few once again, and then again in London in the 1989 Amnesty show The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball, with One Leg Too Few again and an old Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling sketch, The Frog And Peach, as well as appearing on television together in an interview with Mavis Nicholson (1989 ITV). The re-union was largely engineered by Cook's girlfriend Lin Chong, who he had known since 1982. Cook's marriage to Judy had broken down in the early '80s, although they remained in contact and friends. He finally divorced Judy in 1989 and married Lin in the same year.

In 1990 Cook and Moore got together again to assemble The Best Of What's Left Of Not Only... But Also video (1990 BBC Enterprises, re-released in 1999 as Comedy Greats: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore). The debacle of the BBC's destruction of many of the original Not Only... But Also tapes is well documented at the Some Of The Corpses Are Amusing site (under Edit News), but sufficient material was found to make a video of the best bits left and to compile a series of six half-hour shows under the same title as the video (1990 BBC2) and which featured much material that didn't make it on to video. At the time of writing, the BBC are considering plans to release this material as well as other bits and bobs in the vaults. Phone them up today as ask where the fuck it is, and then phone them up again tomorrow.

Cook was also persuaded to dust off one of his oldest characters, Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling for a new television series. A Life In Pieces (December 1990-January 1991 BBC2) was a series of twelve five-minute shows where Sir Arthur would be interviewed by Ludovic Kennedy around the theme of the carol The Twelve Days Of Christmas. The programmes were aired late at night and scheduling problems meant it was broadcast at different times each night, and the programme was almost completely ignored. Although the scripts themselves were first-rate [see P&B #15 onwards], and the first new material written for Sir Arthur since the 1971 Not Only.. But Also Australian specials, something was lost in the transference to television and the series failed to re-spark interest in Cook as a writer/performer.

Cook made a few more television appearances over the next couple of years, mainly in other people's scripts, such as Whose Line Is It Anyway (1988 Channel 4), the one-off The Craig Ferguson Story (1991 Channel 4) as Ferguson's father, the comedy drama series Gone To Seed (1992 ITV) as a conman, and One Foot In The Algarve (1993 BBC1), the One Foot In The Grave Christmas special, as a photographer. He also did a host of voiceovers, including Roger Mellie, The Man On The Telly (1991 Channel 4), the cartoon version of the Viz comic strip, and the voice of Radio of an Arena special Radio Night (1993 BBC2 & Radio 4), as well as guest appearances on such shows as Have I Got News For You, twice (1991 and 1993 BBC2), Fantasy Football League (1994 BBC2) and Room 101 (1994 BBC2). In addition there was a creditable appearance as an aristocrat in a film of Black Beauty (1994) with Eleanor Bron. These brought in some income, helping to fund Cook's self-imposed semi-retirement, along with some spoof sports columns for the London Evening Standard and, of course, his continued contributions to Private Eye which had sustained him creatively since the 1960s.

But Cook was obviously keen to show he could still write and perform, as he demonstrated in blistering form on a special edition of Clive Anderson Talks Back (1993 Channel 4), dedicated to four Cook characters being interviewed by Anderson. The resulting Christmas special was quite simply one of the best pieces of television work Cook ever did, with characterisation, performance and quality gags all in perfect harmony. Two of the characters were essentially old ones spruced up, Norman House, a biscuit tester kidnapped by aliens, was E.L. Wisty in a comfy jumper, and the judge Sir James Beauchamp was Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling's fascist older brother. These were complemented by two new characters, Alan Latchley, every terrible football manager rolled into one, and ageing supergroup rock star Eric Daley [See P&B #19].

After the Clive Anderson show, the public, for a brief period, sat up and noticed Cook again. He seemed to be back to something of his old self, and the success of his next project, Why Bother? (1994 BBC Radio 3), brought him more attention. As in A Life In Pieces, Why Bother? was a set of interviews with Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, this time with Chris Morris in the chair. But the new show attempted to circumvent the problems of A Life... by being largely improvised rather than scripted, capturing Cook's flights of fancy perfectly as they emerged rather than flattened by over-rehearsal. The use of radio rather than television allowed Cook to explore stranger and stranger avenues, flipping between word-play, mental cartoons and surreal yet semi-autobiographical ramblings. Morris himself proved a tough questioner, employing his then-trademark Paxman-esque aggressive style which, rather than brow-beating Cook brought out the best in him [See P&B #13].

It was to prove, however, Cook's last great creative spurt. A second series of A Life In Pieces was commissioned but never made and his last work as a writer/performer was a rather disappointing video, Peter Cook Talks Golf Balls (1994). Intended to build on the success of the Clive Anderson show, Cook adopted four different characters including a Major Titherly Glibble, another Streeb-Greebling clone [See P&B #12]. The results did not match those of the Clive Anderson show and interest receded.

On the 9th of January 1995 Peter Cook died in the Royal Free Hospital as the result of a gastro-intestinal haemorrhage.

further reading

 Have you joined the Peter Cook eMail List yet? If not, this could be your ideal opportunity. To see our page giving further details of the list, please select the link below (you will not leave this site).
 Peter Cook eMail List
I run ting, Anne T'ing.