Peter Cook

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Peter Edward Cook (17 November 19379 January 1995) was an English satirist, writer and comedian who is widely regarded as the father of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He first achieved fame in the revue Beyond the Fringe.

Sourced

  • You know, I go to the theatre to be entertained... I don’t want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction... I can get all that at home.

Bedazzled (1967)

Though the entire screenplay is credited to Cook, lines quoted here are only those where he is speaking as "George Spiggott" (The Devil).
  • You fill me with inertia.
  • You realize that suicide's a criminal offense — In less enlightened times they'd have hung you for it.
  • What terrible sins I have working for me. I suppose it's the wages.
  • It's the standard contract. Gives you seven wishes in accordance with the mystic rules of life. Seven Days of the Week, Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Seas, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...
  • Now, then, what'd you like to be first? Prime Minister? Oh, no — I've made that deal already.
  • The garden of Eden was a boggy swamp just south of Croydon. You can see it over there.
  • There was a time when I used to get lots of ideas... I thought up the Seven Deadly Sins in one afternoon. The only thing I've come up with recently is advertising.
  • Job was what you'd technically describe as a loony.
  • In the words of Marcel Proust — and this applies to any woman in the world — if you can stay up and listen with a fair degree of attention to whatever garbage, no matter how stupid it is that they're coming out with, til ten minutes past four in the morning... you're in.
  • And the magic word: Julie Andrews!
  • Just putting a tiny little ventilation hole in this oil tanker.
  • Tell God not to go away. I'll be back in a minute.
  • I've done a good deed. I gave that little twit his soul back. Wasn't that generous?
  • All right, you great git, you've asked for it. I'll cover the world in Tastee-Freez and Wimpy Burgers. I'll fill it with concrete runways, motorways, aircraft, television, automobiles, advertising, plastic flowers, frozen food and supersonic bangs. I'll make it so noisy and disgusting that even you'll be ashamed of yourself! No wonder you've so few friends; you're unbelievable!
    • To God.

Dialog with Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) :

Stanley Moon: You're a nutcase! You're a bleedin' nutcase!
George Spiggott: They said the same of Jesus Christ, Freud, and Galileo.
Stanley Moon: They said it of a lot of nutcases too!
George Spiggott: You're not as stupid as you look are you, Mr. Moon?

Stanley Moon: Here, my ice lolly's melted. You really must be the Devil.
George Spiggott: Incarnate. How d'you do?

Stanley Moon: I thought you were called Lucifer.
George Spiggott: I know. "The Bringer of the Light" it used to be. Sounded a bit poofy to me.

George Spiggott: Everything I've ever told you has been a lie. Including that.
Stanley Moon: Including what?
George Spiggott: That everything I've ever told has been a lie. That's not true.
Stanley Moon: I don't know what to believe.
George Spiggott: Not me, Stanley, believe me!

Stanley Moon: Apart from the way He moves, what's God really like? I mean, what colour is He?
George Spiggott: He's all colours of the rainbow, many-hued.
Stanley Moon: But He is English, isn't He?
George Spiggott: Oh yes. Very upper class.

The Princess Bride (1987)

As the "Impressive Clergyman"

  • Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam.
  • And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah —
  • Have you the wing?

From Beyond the Fringe

  • I could have been a Judge, but I never had the Latin for the judgin'. I never had it, so I'd had it, as far as being a judge was concerned... I would much prefer to be a judge than a coal miner because of the absence of falling coal.
    • as E.L. Wisty, "Sitting on the Bench"
  • I've always been after the trappings of great luxury. But all I've got hold of are the trappings of great poverty. I've got hold of the wrong load of trappings, and a rotten load they are too, ones I could have very well done without.
    • as E.L. Wisty, "Sitting on the Bench"
  • I would like to like to make one thing clear at the very outset and that is, when you speak of a train robbery, this involved no loss of train, merely what I like to call the contents of the train, which were pilfered. We haven't lost a train since 1946, I believe it was - the year of the great snows when we mislaid a small one.
    • "The Great Train Robbery"
  • We believe this to be the work of thieves, and I'll tell you why. The whole pattern is very reminiscent of past robberies where we have found thieves to be involved. The tell-tale loss of property - that's one of the signs we look for.
    • "The Great Train Robbery"
  • The leg division, Mr Spiggot. You are deficient in it to the tune of one. Your right leg, I like. I like your right leg, it's a lovely leg for the role. That's what I said when I saw it come in. I said, "that's a lovely leg for the role". I've got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is - neither have you. You fall down on your left.
    • "One Leg Too Few"

As E. L. Wisty

  • If there's one thing I can't bear, it's when hundreds of old men come creeping in through the window in the middle of the night and throw all manner of garbage over me. I can't bear that.
    • "The World Domination League", 1964
  • It's a wonderful league, the World Domination League. The aims, as published in the manifesto, are total domination of the world by 1958. That's what we're planning to do. We've had to revise it. We're hoping to bring a new manifesto out with a more realistic target.
    • "The World Domination League", 1964
  • He was another dominator you know - Hitler. And he was a wonderful ballroom dancer. Not many people know that... Of course Mrs Hitler was a charming woman, wasn't she? She's still alive, you know. I saw her down the Egdware Road only the other day. She'd just popped into the chemist's to buy something, and I saw her sign the cheque "Mrs Hitler" so I knew it was she.
    • "The World Domination League", 1964
  • If I did become Minister of Nudism, I'd be allowed to be on television every evening around nine thirty. I'd come on and say "Good evening. This is the Minister of Nudism. Take off your clothes and begin to dance about."
    • "Peace Through Nudism", 1964
  • Poor old Spotty Muldoon. He thought of splitting the atom the other day. If only he could have had the idea about thirty years ago, he'd have made a bloody fortune.
    • "The Man Who Invented The Wheel", 1964
  • Bleendreeble specialises in the universe. He doesn't branch out much beyond that. But he's quite intereted in this limited field.
    • "Food For Thought", 1964
  • If a dog starts biting you, you can't kick it up the throat like it deserves. People always say "Oh dear, poor little dog, he was only trying to be friendly. That's the way he tries to be friendly, sniffing at your ankles and biting you, you cruel, wicked man."
    • "Man's Best Friend", 1964

From Not Only... But Also

  • Well, it's always very difficult to say what prompts anybody to do anything, let alone getting underwater and teaching ravens to fly. But I think it probably all dates back to a very early age, when I was quite a young fellow. My mother, Lady Beryl Streeb-Greebling, you know, the wonderful dancer - 107 tomorrow and still dancing - she came up to me in the conservatory - I was pruning some walnuts - and she said "Arthur" - I wasn't Sir Arthur in those days - she said "Arthur, if you don't get underwater and start teaching ravens to fly, I'll smash your stupid face off," and I think it was this that sort of first started my interest in the whole business of getting them underwater.
    • "Ravens", Not Only But Also, 1965
  • PETE: I had the same bloody trouble about two nights ago. I come in, about half past eleven at night. I come in, I get into bed, you see, feeling quite sleepy. I could feel the lids of me eyes beginning to droop, you see - a bit of droop in the eyes. I was about to drop off when suddenly - tap, tap, tap at the bloody window pane. I looked out. You know who it was?
  • DUD: Who?
  • PETE: Bloody Greta Garbo. Bloody Greta Garbo, stark naked save for a shortie nightie, hanging on to the window sill, and I could see her knuckles all white, saying "Peter, Peter". You know how those bloody Swedes go on.
    • "Film Stars", Not Only... But Also, 1965
  • The thing that makes you know that Vernon Ward is a good painter is if you look at his ducks, you can see the eyes follow you around the room.
    • "At The Art Gallery", Not Only... But Also, 1965

Miscellaneous

  • I am blind, but I am able to read thanks to a wonderful new system known as broil. I'm sorry, I'll just feel that again.
    • "Blind", Derek and Clive (Live), 1976
  • 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.
    • Reflecting on "Beyond The Fringe" for the book "The Complete Beyond The Fringe", 1987

Unsourced

  • I've learned from my mistakes and I'm sure I can repeat them exactly.
  • I think I ran out of ambition at 24... Indolent. I see nothing wrong with that.
  • I went to the University of Life and was chucked out.
  • My biggest regret in life is saving David Frost from drowning.
    • He is also reported to have called Frost "the bubonic plagiarist".
  • Playing rugby at school I once fell on a loose ball and, through ignorance and fear, held on despite a fierce pummelling. After that it took me months to convince my team-mates I was a coward.
  • The most ordinary thing like appearing on Clive James fills me with panic, I don't much enjoy being on television. I'd rather be sarcastic to myself. I'd rather do it for a few people socially, but it would be a bit rude to take up a collection after dinner.
  • There's terrific merit in having no sense of humour, no sense of irony, practically no sense of anything at all. If you're born with these so-called defects you have a very good chance of getting to the top.
  • Tragically I was an only twin.

Quotes about Cook

  • Being British in this part of the century meant living in the country that had Peter Cook in it. There are wits and there are clowns in comedy, I suppose. Peter was a wit, it goes without saying, but he was funny in an almost supernatural way that has never been matched by anyone I've met or even heard about. It wasn't to do with facial expression or epigrammatic wit, or cattiness or rant or anger or technique: he had funniness in the same way that beautiful people have beauty or dancers have line and grace. He had an ability to make people gasp and gasp and gasp for breath like landed fish. ~ Stephen Fry
  • I'll leave with a story whose victim, Sir David Frost, won't mind it being told, because he tells it himself. David Frost rang Peter Cook up some years ago. "Peter, I'm having a little dinner party on behalf of Prince Andrew and his new bride-to-be Sarah Ferguson. I know they'd love to meet you, big fans; Be super if you could make it: Wednesday the twelfth." "Hang on... I'll just check my diary." Pause and rummaging and leafing through diary noises. And then Peter said "Oh dear. I find I'm watching television that night." ~ Stephen Fry
  • It is a sad fact that when people are really enjoying themselves and laughing immoderately, they can afterwards remember very little of the conversation, very few of the jokes. There was the famous occasion when Peter addressed a group of revellers at a lunch celebrating 25 years of Private Eye. Almost everyone who was there, myself included, will tell you it was the funniest, most brilliant speech they had ever heard. But ask us to recall the jokes and there will be a complete blank. Peter's funniest performances were generally of this impromptu, unscripted variety. ~ Richard Ingrams in The Observer (19 December 2004)
  • He got used early to the adulation of a wide public and eventually decided that he could do without it; long before the end, fame had to chase him far harder than he chased it. But among his fellow practitioners his lustre was undimmed, unequalled. and unchallenged... Just as the astronauts riding up on their rockets all worshipped Chuck Yeager, the jet pilot who never joined them in space because he flew too well with wings, so the media millionaires all knew that Cook was the unsurpassable precursor who had done it all before they did, and done it better. ~ Clive James, in an online tribute.
  • He wasn't just a genius, he had the genius's impatience with the whole idea of doing something again. He reinvented an art form, exhausted its possibilities, and just left it. There is always something frightening about that degree of inventiveness... He didn't lose his powers. He just lost interest in proving that he possessed them. ~ Clive James
  • The first time I saw Peter what made the impression was the visual content of what he and Dudley Moore were doing. It was Not Only, But Also..., and Pete and Dud were dressed up as nuns and were bouncing up and down on a trampoline. I rolled off my seat. I thought I'd ever seen anything so hilarious or so surreal or so... well... beautiful. I spent the next four or five years trying to emulate that sort of visual surprise. ~ Terry Jones
  • I realised what everyone else had been talking about: the brilliance of Peter's humour. It was brilliant and it was luminous. And it was... easy. Not easy for you and me to come to... but easy for him. It just rolled out of him... almost as if he didn't need to think about it. ~ Terry Jones
  • I remember being moved to tears when Peter said: 'I know I was funny but I know I won't improve, I won't get any better'. I was lucky to be around when he was at his peak. Verbally he was the most witty man that I have ever come across and strangely inventive. ~ Dudley Moore
  • He's one of those people who is completely and utterly irreplaceable. One of the things he did was to form the basis of what one would call the new comedy of the 1960s and 1970s. His achievement is absolutely extraordinary. ~ Michael Palin
  • Obviously, he was the first — he was the Governor. Right from the start with those very precocious sketches for the Cambridge Footlights and through Beyond the Fringe, he was an exceptional talent... Every 10 years or so you always get a new generation of comedians but they all acknowledge their debt to Peter. ~ Ned Sherrin

External links

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