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on 30 October 2006
I've read a lot of Peter Cook books, being a big fan of his for years, and this is definitely one of the best. A lot of the others are too personal - not surprisingly, being written by his ex-wives - and concentrate on the bleaker periods of Cook's life. This not only celebrates the bleak bits - how bad could it have been when he was still phoning late-night radio with the hilarious 'Sven' stories - but remembers all the good times too, which are, in the end, what we love him for.

Everyone from Cook's history appears somewhere, from the Pythons to Clive Anderson and even the brilliant Chris Morris. Mel Smith's stories about the bets he used to make with Cook - balancing ice cubes on babies' heads, for instance - are worth the price alone. A must for fans of British Comedy.
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on 28 December 2007
If, like me, you agree with Stephen Fry's assessment that Peter Cook was indeed "the funniest man to ever draw breath," then you'll welcome the publication of this tome from the folks at the Establishment, the Peter Cook Appreciation Society (stabbers.org) who for a time were responsible for the dead tree periodical Publish and Bedazzled (AKA Pub & Bed). While the bonanza of materials to surface in the last couple years is rich--from Harry Thompson's lively if flawed biography to the comprehensive collections of writings and remembrances put together by third wife Lin and most recently, the memoir of first wife Wendy--this book is the only one that comes from the same point of view as most readers of the above tomes. I mean fans, of course. And when it comes to PC, "fans" is almost always short for fanatics.

My own chicken-and-egg story of fandom is hard to sort. There was suddenly this period where I was deluged with British comedy in the unlikeliest of spots: mid-Michigan. At the age of 14 or so, Britcom hit me with a resounding splat from which I have never recovered. When I should have been falling for the latest teen idol, I was instead consumed with a passion for the Pythons, the Goons and the Goodies (which explains a lot about my life's trajectory since then). I can't sort out that mad rush of comic immersion, but I think the first bit of Peter Cook was A POKE IN THE EYE WITH A SHARP STICK (yeah, on vinyl--so what, I'm old), the early Amnesty International benefit concert. But it doesn't matter because, viper-like, I devoured everything I could get my greedy little paws on and forever warped my outlook on life.

Consequently, I have sucked the marrow from every PC book that's come out in the last couple of years, and thank the gods, the Internet has put me in touch with PC fans around the world so I've finally seen just about everything that exists (except for the complete Fairy Cobbler sketch, so if you have a copy...). You'd think I'd be gagging on it by now, that one more book would put me over the edge, but no--I couldn't be more pleased to have Messrs. Hamilton, Gordon and Kieran's volume in part, because it does come from that fan point of view. Although that can make it a trifle uneven. The interviews almost entirely depend upon the state of mind of the interviewee at the moment which likewise ranges from insightful and intelligent to belligerently beery. But unlike the encomia of SOMETHING LIKE FIRE or the biographies and memoirs that use Cook as a canvas upon which to paint their pet theories or pet peeves, HOW VERY INTERESTING captures the fleeting moments of those who worked with, trod near or found the same fascination with Cook. They include folks like the always-brilliant Eleanor Bron and Chris Morris, long-time friends like John Fortune and John Bassett and the Private Eye crew. The discussions (it is mostly interviews) range far beyond Cook and his oeuvre but trample through all manner of comedy and performance. The tone veers from light-hearted to hilarious, from fawning to cynical--but it's the perfect book for leaving close to hand so you can pick it up at odd moments and laugh your ass off or chuckle knowingly as the case may be. Besides, you don't even need the Latin for it.
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on 9 July 2007
I'd been a fan of Dan Kieran's books about Crap Jobs and Crap Towns (not least 'cos I have a crap job in a crap town!) but Peter Cook was an unknown quantity to me. But I risked getting How Very Interesting because I thought if Dan the Man's got something to do with it, then it's gonna be a bit mad, not the usual 'So-and-so was born at the age of one, went somewhere, did this thing and died' type of biography. And it IS a very strange book, and brilliantly so. Instead of a straight story from soup to nuts, Dan gets people from certain moments of Peter Cook's performing career to give their eyewitness accounts. The fun begins when two or more interviewees talk about the same incident but from totally differing perspectives.

Cook was famed for his rambling style of comedy, and this book echoes that. We get the producer of Beyond The Fringe talking in great detail of the cast's visit to a brothel, Soft Boy Robyn Hitchcock discussing how Yellow Submarine was a prophecy of the rise of Margaret Thatcher, someone else seeing PC and Keith Richards so out-of-it they're conversing in caveman grunts.

In a very subtle way it tells not only Cook's story but the story of the times, and puts a unique slant on the perceived rise and fall of a comedy genius. In the 60s when Cook and Dudley Moore were making the TV shows that influenced the future Pythons, the BBC never once asked to see the scripts (mainly because there weren't any; they would improvise stuff during the week, perform it on a Friday and screen it on the Monday) because they trusted the duo. Compare that to now where everything has to meet the approval and vetting of various quangoes and departments. No wonder the mercurial Cook barely worked in his last years - he couldn't bear having to wade through all that red tape.

In addition to the interviews there are some essential chapters on his major films that shed new light on Cook's impulses and ambitions. (Dan Kieran isn't afraid to treat comedy seriously.) Amongst the jollity - and Cook seemed almost manically driven to find the fun in any situation, he was a positive lifeforce (the chapter about Yellowbeard is uproarious) - there is a deep humanity and sensitivity in these pages, the pieces by QI producer John Lloyd and Martin Lewis being, for me, the emotional apexes. They miss him deeply and - after reading about this amazing man - I miss missing the opportunity to miss him.

More than a biography it's a crucially insightful guide to his work. Keep a copy by your computer when you're checking all the Cooky stuff on youtube. From this book I have discovered Derek & Clive, Bedazzled, the loopy Consequences concept album he made with Godley & Creme, and so much more. All hail Dan Kieran for doing the right thing! A treasure trove of riches and delights.
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on 12 October 2007
I really enjoyed this collection - it is a delightful, rich and enlightening survey of many of those work brought them into contact with the great Peter Cook, and, combined, the recollections provide a very vivid portrait of a remarkable, but very human, comic genius. It's one of those books one never wants to finish. If you love Cook, you'll relish every page.
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on 22 January 2012
Brimming with ideas, insight, sauciness, intrigue,comic theory and pages of paper.
Recommended Reading (north of Spencers Wood and Shinfield.
When it was delivered I was in the bath, but a card through the door and I picked it up from the desk at the sorting office in Gillette Way. Marvellous.
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on 27 February 2013
The various interviews here help to explain the high regard Cook was (and is) held in by so many of his contemporaries. His legacy remains intact, and these anecdotes reveal a great deal about how Cook worked and why he was so inspirational to so many.
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on 17 September 2016
Far too 'fanboy' in tone, but the interviews can be very revealing of Peter Cooke, who was always, is always still, a paradox worth mulling over.
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on 27 April 2016
this a very interesting book, takes me back to thr good old 60's.
yes it arrived on time. would always purchase from this shop.
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on 16 March 2016
Great book - much better than I'd anticipated and a fascinating insight from people who worked with PC.
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on 28 January 2013
Like Cooky do you? Want to find out more about him do you? Well buy it then. It's very good
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