Peter Cook, Hampstead 1994.


During his lifetime he was often described as the“greatest living Englishman” and it was certainly true that, as a comedian and satirist, Peter Cook had a special place in the hearts of most of my generation.

I'd been a big fan since I was a schoolboy.  In fact I can often remember standing around in the playground with my friends at school, re-enacting some of the Pete and Dud or E.L. Whisty sketches from the night before's TV show.

He first came to the fore in 1960 with the West End stage production ‘Beyond the Fringe’.  I was 10 and the time and didn't see it.

But I certainly did see all his early appearances on the ground breaking satirical TV show ‘That Was The Week That Was’.

Peter Cook was also well known to be a life long Spurs fan (his season ticket was situated about 12 feet away from mine) and I can vividly recall him sitting there, virtually anonymously and fairly quietly, amongst all the rest of us. Towards the end of his life he didn't get to every game but he was always there, in his  eccentrically patterned socks, when the Arsenal game came around.

It was a particular honour for me to be asked to photograph him.  Most people say that comedians are real miseries when one meets them off stage.  I've simply never found this to be true but, of course, when they meet the members of the Fourth Estate, I suppose they may still be performing to some extent.

All I can say is that he was tremendously entertaining to me and the writer (David Quantick) whilst we were in his home.  He pretty much kept us in stitches the whole time.  He looked pretty gloomy in all my photos though, especially the one above.

That's the great thing about the photographic process, it always tells it's own kind of truth, often irrespective of what you might intend.  I suppose I was so busy laughing and being charmed by Peter Cook that I couldn't see what it was I should have really been looking at.