An album a week #5: The World of Pete and Dud by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

Your mother even has to sleep in the same bed as Uncle Berty — to prevent him getting up to anything in the night.

My life has been a miserable failure.

Alan, I can confirm that – I’ve double-checked – he’s only got one pair of hands…

The sign of a good painting with their backs towards you is if the bottoms follow you around the room.

Freud says you have your conscious mind and your unconscious mind.  In your case, the division is marginal.

It’s very difficult to say what prompts anybody to do anything, let alone getting under water attempting to get ravens to fly.

Cover of The World of Pete and Dud

Looking very family friendly, aren’t they?

Oh, what’s the point of quoting it?  It’s like cutting bits out of The Night Watch and saying ‘what a great painting, see?’  Cook and Moore came out of Beyond the Fringe, which itself is a landmark in comedy, and proceeded to drag comedy kicking a screaming from music hall through whimsy and satire and sheer verbal brilliance to appalling debauchery (in the guise of Derek and Clive) in fifteen short years.  I don’t have a problem with Derek and Clive’s profanity.  There’s some violence in there, but simple grossness does not bother me that much.  What bothers me is the lack of wit.  It is wilfully witless.  Derek and Clive (Live) is not bad.  ‘The Worst Job I Ever Had’ is justifiably famous, though still rather lacking in actual jokes (‘post hoc, te proct’ indeed).

 The stuff here is earlier, and funnier. The lines are funny, the delivery is funny, the images conjured up are funny.  It loses very little compared to the TV shows in translation to a purely audio format.  The Art Gallery sketch has a couple of visual jokes — particularly when Dud stands behind the Laughing Cavalier and provides his legs, and later when they eyeball each other over a couple of sandwiches — but the performances were so verbal (many of their sketches are essentially two blokes sitting down talking anyway) that the audio captures most of it.

And these days you just need youtube anyway.

album_back_coverPeter Cook was the funniest man alive until his death in 1995.  Since then he’s been the funniest man dead, possibly an even greater achievement since he’s up against Oscar Wilde.

Has the work aged?  Yes.  It’s 50 years old now and a working knowledge of the 60s helps, but many of the jokes are about the eternal verities — sex, art, sandwiches, absurdity — and very few are topical.  A few names here and there, perhaps, locate it in its time, and the sensibility is not modern.  But the sheer wit on display — key sketches are ‘Art Gallery’, ‘A Bit of a Chat’, ‘Dud Dreams’ and ‘The Ravens’ — has rarely been equalled, ands it’s all just spun out of the air.

If you haven’t had a listen to any Cook and Moore, google a bit and give it a try.


Sadly, I was an only twin.


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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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