Features

Classic TV Revisited: Not Only Peter Cook…… But Also Dudley Moore

not-only-peter-cook-but-also-dudley-moore

Written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

What was it all about?
A classic Sixties sketch show combining the remarkable talents of diminutive Dudley Moore and the tall acerbic Peter Cook.

When was it on?
There were three seven-part series on BBC2 — in 1965, 1966 and 1970 — plus a 1966 Christmas special.

Who wrote it?
Dudley Moore estimates that Peter Cook contributed 70 per cent of the material and he provided the other 30. So their input was roughly in proportion to their height.

How did it come about?
In 1964 the BBC asked Dudley Moore to do a one-off special and he invited Peter Cook, his partner from the hit revue ‘Beyond The Fringe’, to appear. Cook’s mournful character E.L. Wisty was already familiar to viewers of ‘On The Braden Beat’. Cook wrote two sketches — one about Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling whose life’s work consisted of teaching ravens to fly underwater, the other about two scruffy philosophisers in cloth caps, scarves and raincoats. He called these two Dud and Pete. The BBC were so impressed that they commissioned a full series to be called Not Only…But Also, meaning Not Only Peter Cook But Also Dudley Moore, or vice-versa.

Any guest stars?
John Lennon, a friend of Cook’s, made a cameo appearance in the 1966 Christmas special as the commissionaire of a gents’ lavatory. Resplendent in uniform and top hat, Lennon filmed the sketch outside the men’s toilet in Broadwick Street, Soho.

Peter Sellers also asked to appear on the show and made two appearances in the first series, once as a boxer, the other time as a critic. Other guests included Cilla Black, Henry Cooper, Eric Sykes and Dusty Springfield.

The third series featured a rhyming contest called ‘Poets Cornered’ where Cook, Moore and a guest (they included Spike Milligan, Frank Muir and Barry Humphries) had to ad-lib a poem without hesitation. If they failed, they were dumped in a pool of gunge. Who said ‘Tiswas’ was ground breaking?

Which was their most famous sketch?
Probably the tale of Mr. Spiggott (played by Moore) who auditioned to play Tarzan despite the not inconsiderable handicap of having only one leg. Theatrical producer Cook tries to point out why Spiggott might not be suitable for Tarzan. ‘Your right leg I like. I like your right leg. A lovely leg for the role. I’ve nothing against your right leg. The trouble is neither have you.’

What about the Dagenham Dialogues?
These were the celebrated exchanges between Dud and Pete (Moore was born in Dagenham) which would take place in a pub, at an art gallery or at the zoo.There they would discuss the meaning of life, often over their sandwiches.

At the zoo, they pondered the merits of being a humming bird, able to kiss at great distances thanks to its long, coiled-up tongue. ‘That means that you could stand on the Chiswick flyover and kiss someone up the Staines by-pass.’

Dud and Pete lived a fantasy existence in which they were plagued by Hollywood sex symbols. The pair recounted how they had coldly despatched Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth and Jane Russell from their bedrooms, ordering them never to return. ‘Tap, tap, tap at the bloody window pane. I looked out– you know who it was? Bloody Greta Garbo.’ And: ‘That Rita Hayworth was all over me, but I wasn’t having any!’

At the art gallery, Pete explained to Dud how bottoms follow you around the room.

Cook and Moore wrote these sketches simply by deciding on a subject, switching on a tape recorder and then talking to each other as Dud and Pete would. When it came to doing the actual show, Cook would often improvise brilliantly, leaving Moore on the verge of hysterics. Moore would stuff his mouth full of sandwiches in an attempt to regain his composure.

Was there much censorship?
The BBC tried to regulate the number of times words like ‘bum’ and ‘tit’ were used in the show. Cook loved to get away with things such as the bottle of wine he called Chat All Over the Carpet.

Didn’t the show have distinctive opening and closing sequences?
Cook and Moore began each show at the piano with the camera pulling back to reveal them in all manner of unlikely settings – underwater, at a car wash or on board an aircraft carrier. For one sequence they managed to get Tower Bridge opened so they could hang a ‘Not Only…But Also’ banner from it. Each show ended with their theme song ‘Goodbye-ee’ which reached number 18 in the charts in 1965. In the same year Peter Cook enjoyed solo success with ‘The Ballad of Spotty Muldoon’ as in ‘Spotty Muldoon, Spotty Muldoon, he has spots all over his face’. Bob Dylan, he wasn’t.

Who watched it?
The show’s mix of satire, innovative sketches and jazz music from the Dudley Moore Trio helped establish the identity of BBC2. The off-beat humour made Cook and Moore the darlings of the student set. Older viewers raised on domestic comedies like ‘Joan And Leslie’ or ‘The Dickie Henderson Show’probably found it hard to fathom.

Any spin-offs?
There were two Australian ‘Not Only…But Also’ shows in 1971 and the pair acted together in a number of feature films, including ‘The Wrong Box’, ‘Bedazzled’, and ‘Monte Carlo Or Bust’. In the 1970s they also joined forces for the notorious ‘Derek and Clive’ albums but eventually went their separate ways – Moore to Hollywood stardom and Cook to the Coach and Horses.