As I looked out into the night sky, across all those infinite stars, it made me realise how insignificant they are
Peter Cook was an anarchic comedian and actor who came to prominence with the 1960s British satire boom and is regarded by many today as the “The Father of Modern Satire”.
Born in Torquay to a colonial civil servant and his wife, Peter initially had aspirations to become a career diplomat like his father but gave up on the idea when he realised, as he said, Britain “had run out of colonies”. While he was studying at Cambridge for a degree in French and German he joined Cambridge Footlights Club, a breeding ground for young talent, and began writing and performing sketches.
His big break in the entertainment industry and the generally accepted beginning of the British satire boom was on August 22nd 1960 when he premiered Beyond the Fringe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was a show he wrote and performed alongside Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and the man who would go on to be his most prolific collaborator, Dudley Moore.
Together Cook and Moore would craft some of Britain’s most fondly remembered, bitingly satirical and outrageously rude sketch comedy. There was no taboo they wouldn’t touch upon and the pair would have a successful career spanning decades. Cook would also do his best to promote sceptical views and independent journalism by providing financial support to satirical magazine Private Eye through it’s tougher times, namely its many libel suits.