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Now and Then: Peter Cook (1967)


Main image of Now and Then: Peter Cook (1967)
1 December 1967
16mm, colour, 30 mins
Production CompanyAdanac Productions
ProducersBernard Braden
 Barbara Kelly
PhotographyRichard Bayley

Bernard Braden interviews the great 1960s satirist and comedian.

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By the time of this interview, Peter Cook was well known as one of the most exciting and unpredictable figures at the forefront of the 1960s satirical comedy boom, and had appeared in the West End and on Broadway in Beyond the Fringe, the revue in which he made his breakthrough earlier in the decade alongside Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller. Cook had recently completed work on the comedy film Bedazzled (1967), in which he appeared with Dudley Moore, his most enduring and effective comic collaborator.

Referring back to Beyond the Fringe, Bernard Braden suggests that Cook's particular talent is as "a definitive amateur," to which Cook's response is that "I'll go on getting more amateurish as I go along... I find myself unable to learn anything." These sentiments were repeatedly reflected in Cook's performing career, as evidenced by the inspired improvisational flights-of-fancy that constitute much of the Cook/Moore interplay in the television comedy Not Only... But Also and the Derek and Clive recordings. Perhaps contradictorily, then, Cook notes that no lines were changed as they shot Bedazzled (d. Stanley Donen, 1967), and that he is suspicious of improvisation on set: "extra gags detract from the story". He also suggests that he is moving away from using 'funny voices' for comedy. The voices - and the improvisation - would feature prominently, however, in much of his subsequent work.

A large part of the interview is devoted to a general discussion of contemporary world politics. Interviewer Bernard Braden and Cook discuss the domestic situation - "I hope that politicians will learn that they can't get away with telling lies" - as well as the situation abroad. In Vietnam, the Americans should "declare a victory and get out". In Rhodesia, "the white population will have to change things eventually." In the Middle East, "the Arabs must acknowledge Israel as a state."

Cook expresses a mixture of amusement and dismay at all the major British political parties and their policies, reserving particular scorn for party political broadcasts, which he considers "completely out of touch with what people can respond to." Though he is "filled by horror and disgust" at the Tories, and considers the Labour Party a "bungling lot", he still concludes that he would rather live in Britain than anywhere else in the world.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
Complete unedited interview (31:48)
Cook, Peter (1937-1995)
Now and Then (1967-68)