Saturday, April 12, 2008

Feast of Saint Dudley

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This week we celebrate the feast of Saint Dudley. Unfortunately, in America we tend to think of Dudley Moore in terms of the silly films Arthur and 10, but he in fact was quite the comedian in England for decades before.

Always short -- reaching only 5'2" in adulthood -- and having been born with a club foot, he was picked on mercilessly as a child. This led to his quick wit as a defense and, as a result of his inability to run and play like the other kids, taking up music seriously. He was a gifted pianist, something often featured in his later comedy.

His comedy career started with the British satire troupe Beyond the Fringe where he met Peter Cook. Later Moore had a BBC series called "Not Only...But Also" on which he had Cook as a guest. The two recognized the chemistry and saw each other as great talents and formed a comedy team that would last decades.

At first, they called themselves "Pete and Dud" and did some classic straight ahead sketch comedy. Moore from a working class background and Cook from a bourgeois setting found that they could play off of their differences in ways that were both funny and socially relevant. Their most well known bit was "One Leg Too Few"

In the 1970s, they transformed the act into Derek and Clive, a British shock comedy act well known for its use of foul language and incredibly funny and inane conversations on all sorts of topics that would inevitably turn sexual or scatological. It was often improvised and one could see them vying for the opportunity to crack each other up. It was like watching a competition between them. Moore and Cook were the British equivalents of Carlin and Pryor, pushing the boundaries, testing the limits of expression in a way that threw light on the politics of times.

The act became strained and the competition turned nasty. Cook had acquired a drinking problem and resentments between began to come out in the bits which had taken on a much nastier tone. Ultimately, it led to a complete falling out between them. The two would come back together in the late 80s occasionally, but they were never to pick up with any new material.

When Cook died in 1995, it hit Moore hard, and he himself became sick with terrible degenerative disease that claimed him in 2002 on the same day as Milton Berle.

Thank you Saint Dudley for all the laughs.

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve