So, farewell then . . . Peter Cook

Peter Cook, one of the most significant influences on British comedy of the last 35 years, died yesterday aged 57. He suffered a gastrointestinal haemorrhage in the intensive-care unit of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.

A genuine sense of loss accompanied his death, as stars lined up to pay tribute to both the man and his comic legacy.

Caustic, cruel but genuinely and effortlessly witty, Cook was one of the prime architects of the satire boom of the Sixties, achieving fame first in the revue Beyond The Fringe, with Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, then in the television comedy sketch show Not Only But Also, starring himself and Moore.

He founded the Establishment clubs in London and New York, and financed and wrote for the satirical magazine Private Eye, whose obituary writer, EJ Thribb, was one of his inventions.

While Moore went on to stardom in Hollywood, Cook's career seemed to flounder in the Eighties and the formerly lean comedian grew fat as his health deteriorated with a diet that could include lager for breakfast.

Veteran comic Eric Sykes said that "a bright light" had gone out, but added: "Of course, Alan Bennett has done very well, and Dudley Moore has done very well, and Peter didn't. But I think that was because he was not prepared to do what other people wanted."

Cook married his third wife Lin Chong Cook, a freelance property consultant, five years ago. In keeping with his eccentric lifestyle he lived 100 yards away from her.

THE WIT AND WISDOM OF A COMIC GENIUS n Pete and Dud visiting the National Gallery: "I saw the Leonardo cartoon. Didn't get the bloody joke."

n On his Cambridge contemporaries Michael Howard and Kenneth Clarke: "It's a bit distressing when you find them all running the country. They were all so self-important at 20, that you would have thought they'd have grown out of it."

n On insulting Zsa Zsa Gabor on a chat show: "She didn't say anything afterwards. She just went off in a chauffeur- driven huff."

n What he did in the small hours: Rang radio phone-ins posing as Sven, a Norwegian fisherman with a Scottish accent.

n On whether his career had lost its way: "I suppose I might have some regrets, but I can't remember what they are."

n On going into hospital last week: "I feel a bit poorly."

Obituary, page 12

Second Section front, page 17

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