Peter Cook (1935-1995) was one of the greatest British wits of all time.
Comedy is rooted in the history of British theatre. But the second half of the 20th century saw television join the wireless as an alternative mainstream outlet for high culture.
Peter Cook, whilst not a pioneer, set the bar for most of the highest and the lowest standards we have today. Alongside Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan and one or two others
He was a glorious man. Unambitious, carefree, born to make people laugh. The son of a colonial civil servant, Cook was public school and Cambridge. A traditional Englishman to his boots. Think Harold MacMillan meets Alfred Doolittle. Or Lord Boothby meets Brian Clough.
Naturally, Cook began in the theatre. But he was a sketch writer and a performer, not a playwright. Actually he was many things: satirist; publisher; comedian; club owner; film actor; TV guest - to name but a few.
Beyond his writing, every aspiring satirist should watch for Cook's imaginative and quick witted improvisations in performance. Creating lines off the cuff and on the hoof. Alongside his talent for memorable characterisation. Usually High Life pedants or Low Life nincompoops.
My favourites are Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, nitwit Norman House with his metal detector, Scunthorpe FC manager Alan Latchley, rock legend Eric Daley, High Court Judge Sir James Beauchamp and of course Pete opposite Dudley Moore from the Pete & Dud stage and TV sketches.
Peter Cook was often outrageous. Witness his famous Derek & Clive 'cunt' sketch with Dudley. But he was never even remotely crude. He just dared to tread where others never thought to step.
So forgive my pathetic attempt to capture just a hint of that surreal style. In this short sketch. With the ghosts of Peter Cook playing Sid and Dudley Moore as his colleague, Brian.
Sid & Brian Contemplate Lost Property At Dorking Station
Sydney Parslow, a 48 year old ticket-office clerk at Dorking Railway Station is having a lunchtime pint with Brian Maggot, 46, who helps runs the snack bar on Platform One:
SID: You seen what's been handed in to lost property Brian?
BRIAN: No I haven't Sid. What?
SID: You're never going to believe this.
BRIAN: Not a soddin' umbrella?
BRIAN: A mobile phone?
SID: Getting warm..
BRIAN: I know. A pair of brown leather gloves?
SID: Getting very warm..
BRIAN: No good. I give up. You'll have to tell me.
SID: Another bloody vagina.
BRIAN: Oh No! Not another bloody vagina! Poor thing. How many's that since Sunday?
SID: Four. If you count the one that escaped.
BRIAN: Bloody hell. What condition's this one in?
SID: Fine. Considering the ordeal it must've been through.
I gave it a saucer of milk. Then it fell asleep with a smile on its face.
BRIAN: Ah. Bless its heart. I don't know. What is it about these modern women?
SID: Spoilt. That's what.
BRIAN: You're right there Sid. I blame all that Reality TV..
SID: You'd have thought they'd at least take proper care of their vagina. Given they've only got the one.
BRIAN: Too right. It's not as if a vagina's a fabulous breast. Or a little finger. I mean, they've got a spare breast. And loads of fingers. But fancy losing your one and only vagina. If I had a vagina I'd take bloody good care of it. Keep a very close eye out.
SID: I know Brian. As I've often heard you say. I wish I had a vagina. If only I had a vagina my entire life would be far less complicated. My vagina would be the most loved, the most closely observed vagina in the entire world. It would be a well-watched vagina.
BRIAN: Jealously guarded. Kept under lock and key.
SID: Constantly in chains if it were mine. Bolted to the floor.
BRIAN: So what have you done with it?
SID: Put it in the hutch with the others.
BRIAN: Poor bloody vaginas. What if nobody claims them?
SID: I'd rather not tell you that Brian.
BRIAN: Don't say they put them down?
SID: No. But suffice to say, what happens is not very nice. Certainly not the kind of end I'd wish for any vagina of mine.
BRIAN: Poor things. Someone should make an effort to repatriate them.
Here, do you think this new one might belong to Cheryl Cole?
SID: Cheryl Cole? What gives you that idea?
BRIAN: I don't know. But it could belong to Cheryl Cole couldn't it?
SID: How on earth do you suppose Cheryl Cole came to lose her vagina on Platform 1 of Dorking Station?
BRIAN: I don't bloody know. How does any woman lose her vagina? It could have been accidental. Whilst her mind was temporarily distracted.
SID: So what was a globe-trotting superstar like her doing in a state of distraction in Dorking?
BRIAN: What's wrong with Dorking?
SID: Nothing's wrong with Dorking. I mean you and me find Dorking a perfectly pleasant place in which to spend our entire life. We even find excitement within the confines of Dorking. But let's face it Brian. Dorking isn't exactly the throbbing heart of the metropolitan South East.
BRIAN: OK. Maybe she was passing through. En route between her yacht on the south coast and the flickering lights of London.
SID: Possibly Brian. Possibly.
BRIAN: So why don't you ring and ask her?
SID: What me? Pick up the phone and say 'Hello, is that Cheryl Cole. Oh good. Only it's Sydney Parslow here from British Rail Dorking. I was rummaging through our Lost & Found articles and wondered if you might have inadvertently mislaid your vagina on our Platform 1.
BRIAN: That's right. Then she could have a quick look below and give us an immediate answer.
SID: Don't be ridiculous. Suppose she isn't alone.
BRIAN: Maybe the person she's with could take a look. Either way we'd get a result. Clear up the mystery once and for all.
SID: That's true.
BRIAN: Settle our minds and that.
SID: Prove we've done everything possible to rescue a poor lost vagina.
OK Brian I'll do it.
Hello. Is that Cheryl Cole?