The other day my brother sent me a link to a Rik Mayall tribute doc. I shared it on Facebook & made comment of my teenage desire not simply to emulate Rik, but to be him. But I suffered no illusion that anyone but Peter Cook could be Peter Cook. I’m lucky enough to have been born at a time and in a place where as a young kid I had access to a world of comedy that straddled generations: The Goons plus Sellers & Milligan solo, Python & their constituent elements, Dave Allen…and that doesn’t even cover the older style, more music hall/vaudevillean types like Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper etc. On the other side of the Atlantic, I was slave to Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, Jerry & Deano. The Python-inspired (& by extension, Goons-inspired SNL) provided dozens of brilliant actors and comedians, but I also loved their old stagers like George Burns & hugely overlooked Sid Caesar. I was child enough to love Don Knotts & at 12 I thought I was old enough to get Robin Williams. I can’t count the number of comedians I love, from silent movies to now: Cosby, Hicks, Keaton,Newhart, Mitchell, Fry, Ayoade, Gervais, Chaplin, Tati, Humphries, Tomlin, Bamford, CK, Burr, Winters, Rivers, Atkinson, Louis-Dreyfus, Bernie Mac, Burr, Stewart Lee (my current obsession), Morris, Coogan, Sim, Wallace, Newhart…well, I think I’ve kinda made my point, even though I want to keep writing names – Connolly!
No matter how singularly brilliant, freakishly talented & burst innards funny these people are or were, none of them could be Peter Cook. Like a Beethoven or Tesla or Van Gogh, he somehow tapped the source.
He’s 20 years gone today. & I very much wish he were still here. Happily, through the visual medium of film & video recording technology, we can pretend for a few minutes.