BBC releases Peter Cook's last radio show
Friday 16 April 1999
The conversations are released this week on tape by the BBC after being recorded in 1994 for a little-heard series on Radio 3 called Why Bother? The pair were unscripted, with satirist Morris asking absurd questions of Cook, who played his oddball creation Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling.
At one point Morris asks about the time Sir Arthur was arrested outside Eric Clapton's apartment in Los Angeles with a gun, only to be told that Streeb-Greebling was in fact having a Big Mac with Rodney King when the police arrived and sparked the Los Angeles riots. "I tried to mediate by saying `There he is officer'," claims Sir Arthur, "to sort of try to calm the whole thing down. One hates to see Los Angeles go up in flames unless one's got a camera running."
The conversations were recorded after Cook and Morris were brought together by the comedy production company TalkBack. Their surreal interview wanders from Betty Grable's use of steroids to lengthen her legs and Cook's repeated attempts to begin ananecdote about bee-keeping.
Morris told the Peter Cook Appreciation Society: "I had held out no hopes that he wouldn't be a boozy old sack of lard with his hair falling out and scarcely able to get a sentence out. But in fact he stumbled in with a Safeway bag full of Kestrel lager and loads of fags and then proceeded to skip about mentally with the agility of grasshopper."
Cook, who was responsible for the satire boom in the early Sixties, died in 1995.Morris, who began his career as a prankster on local radio, gained notoriety with Brass Eye, his satire on the media. He angered MPs and celebrities by fooling them into appearing on air to condemn a made up drug called "cake" and appealing for funds to help an elephant with its trunk stuck up its behind.
"It was a very different style of improvisation from what I was used to," says Morris. "Peter Cook was really doing moves and thinking to construct jokes and ridiculous scenes flipping back on themselves. It was amazing - hearing fully-formed jokes just coming out. And that gave the lie rather to the impression that by the end he was a sack of useless old potato."
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