Peter Cook

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Peter Edward Cook (17 November 1937 – 9 January 1995) was an English satirist, writer and comedian. An influential figure in British comedy, he is regarded as the leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He has been described by Stephen Fry as "the funniest man who ever drew breath".[1] Cook is closely associated with anti-establishment comedy that emerged in Britain and the USA in the late 1950s.

Contents

Life

Cook was born at "Shearbridge", Middle Warberry Road, Torquay, Devon, the only son and eldest of the three children of Alexander Edward (Alec) Cook (1906–1984), a colonial civil servant, and his wife Ethel Catherine Margaret, née Mayo (1908–1994). He was educated at Radley College and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read French and German. Cook meant to become a career diplomat, but Britain "had run out of colonies", as he put it. Although largely politically apathetic, he did join Cambridge University Liberal Club.[2]

It was at Pembroke that he performed and wrote comedy sketches as a member of the Cambridge Footlights Club, of which he became president in 1960. His hero was fellow Footlights writer and Cambridge magazine writer David Nobbs[3]

While at university, Cook wrote for Kenneth Williams, for whom he created a West End revue called One Over the Eight, before finding prominence in his own right in a four-man group satirical stage show, Beyond the Fringe, with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett and Dudley Moore.

The show became a success in London after being first performed at the Edinburgh Festival, and included Cook impersonating the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan. This was one of the first occasions satirical political mimicry had been attempted in live theatre, and it shocked audiences. During one performance, Macmillan was in the theatre, and Cook departed from his script and attacked him verbally.[4]

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