Peter Cook and Dudley Moore first emerged in 1960 as half of the comedy quartet “Beyond the Fringe.” Cook almost singlehandedly revivified the student dramatic group Cambridge Footlights, and by the time he graduated was contributing comic sketches to West End reviews. After launching the British “satire boom” with Fringe, he saved the satirical magazine Private Eye, and launched The Establishment, a Weimar-style satirical cabaret. Woody Allen famously called Cook “Britain’s only comic genius.”
Dudley Moore started as a jazz musician, but Fringe revealed him as a winning comic actor. He and Cook made a series of shows for the BBC called “Not Only But Also,” many of which have been lost (they were deleted for shelf space). The high point of the team came in 1967’s “Bedazzled,” Cook’s retelling of the Faust story with himself as the Devil, and Moore as a hapless short-order cook. In the Seventies, Cook and Moore toured again with “Good Evening,” the run of which was marred by Cook’s increasing alcoholism. Their last hurrah is a series of X-rated monologues as two alter-egos named Derek and Clive.
A cuddly McCartney to Cook’s Lennon, Moore later became an international heartthrob through “Arthur” and “10.” This galled Cook, who felt that he was the greater talent. As time passed the pair got on better terms; Cook was mounting a return to form in the mid-90s, but died suddenly. In 2005, three hundred comedians in the US and the UK voted Peter Cook the greatest comedian of all time.
Bedazzled (1967 film):
Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations
The Frog and Peach
Derek and Clive:
Worst Job I Ever Had (NSFW)