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All our Yesterdays

The genius of Peter Cook
By martin kelner on Sep 1, 2006 - 7:49:00 AM

#53: Not Only…. But Also… (1965 – 70)

Because the BBC wiped the tapes or recorded the Lord Mayor’s parade over them, all we have to remind us of one of the great treasures of British television is imperfect memory. That, and Harry Thompson’s magisterial biography of the late Peter Cook, in which the following exchange is recorded between Cook’s aristocratic halfwit, Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, and Dudley Moore, interviewing Sir Arthur about his life’s work, teaching ravens to fly underwater:

Dudley: Sir Arthur, is it difficult to get ravens to fly underwater?
Sir Arthur: Well, I think the word ‘difficult’ is an awfully good one here.

The BBC Light Entertainment establishment did not really understand it, but it was a runaway hit, thanks to Cook’s genius, and the chemistry between him and Dud, especially in the so-called ‘Dagenham dialogues,’ when they sat on a park bench or in an art gallery or somewhere, and had monumentally stupid conversations, partly improvised. “You can tell a good painting, when the eyes follow you round the room,” says Pete loftily. “’Ave you been down the Reubens?” asks Dud, “He paints those ladies with large bottoms. You can tell they’re good cause the bottoms follow you round the room.” Or something like that.

“Funny”, was Dud’s catchphrase, and it was.

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