When I was 12 years old I spent much of my time trying to educate myself musically by riffling through my dad’s CD collection. Hearing those old Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums for the first time had a fairly big effect on me in the years that followed, during which I developed my own taste. However, maybe one of the biggest impacts of those Friday evenings was when I stumbled across a plain white album with the words Derek and Clive (Live) written on it in what appeared to be a child’s scrawl. In my ignorance I thought I was going to get something similar to The Beatles’ white album due to the cover. With a slight hesitation my dad let me put the album on. I heard the word ‘cunt’ for the first time and the habit and humour of a lifetime was formed. The experience is as memorable as the first time I heard Never Mind The Bollocks or Dark Side of The Moon.
This year marks 35 years since the release of the first of three Derek and Clive albums. Whilst taking time off from their live shows Peter Cook and Dudley Moore recorded these ramblings of filth with no original intention of releasing them. However, due to bootlegs leaking and receiving favourable responses they decided - why not make money out of it? Thankfully they did and those of us who are not easily offended have enjoyed the material for decades. For people not familiar with the material, its subject matter includes comic jabs at cancer, Jane Mansfield’s anus, Winston Churchill’s bogies and excessive foul language. It is humour that is definitely lacking in a great deal of wit – so you might ask why celebrate 35 years of what is essentially recorded schoolboy banter? The answer is simple – it really is just that fucking funny.
Neither of the creators of this material, were they still alive, are likely to view it as their finest hour. Moore with his Hollywood career and Cook hailed as one of the all-time comedy greats would almost certainly choose something else were they to recall their best moment. Yet, Derek and Clive (Live) as well as its follow-ups Come Again and Ad Nauseam have developed a cult following from people with a love for its unashamed single entendres and downright offensiveness. Not that it needs defending but those who would criticise Derek and Clive for how distasteful it is need to be reminded that it is comedy. It’s meant to be funny. A pair who refer to an ailment of lobsters lodged in an arsehole as “Lobsterisimus Bumikissimus” can hardly be taken seriously when they go on to reveal that they get aroused by images of dead popes. Everything said by Derek and Clive is said to try to make you laugh and in my case – it generally succeeds. Also the fact that most of the conversation topics are so bizarre they are just far too silly to be considered directly offensive in the way Bernard Manning or Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown are.
Highlights include the pair comparing the worst jobs they ever had, altercations at football matches and probably the most offensive of conversations – Clive’s attempt at breaking a world record. The legend goes that the sketches gained attention as they circulated as bootlegs between rock bands at the time like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones and were recorded as early as 1973 but did not see a mainstream release until 1976. Come Again followed in 1977 and Ad Nauseam in 1978. The Ad Nauseam sessions went on to be released as the film Derek and Clive Get The Horn. The film revealed the tensions in the pair’s relationship but regardless of the contempt that Moore clearly felt for Cook, Cook still had the power to reduce him to uncontrollable bouts of laughter.
The sleeve notes to first album describe the characters of Derek and Clive as two toilet attendants but are obviously creations used for the two comedians to explore an extension of the semi-improvised comedy they had practiced earlier in their careers as Pete and Dud. The three albums took comedy to the absolute extreme and for modern day comedians to try to push the boundaries any further would be quite a task as Derek and Clive already broke pretty much every taboo. Although this century really could use a Derek and Clive. When the most popular comedy seems to be people settling for the mundane output of James Corden and the tameness of Michael McIntyre – we could use someone to tell the audience what a bunch of cunts they really are. The BBC used to broadcast Not Only… But Also - Cook and Moore’s sketch show built around their less rude characters, Pete and Dud. They now boast Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show as one of their sketch shows. And Rowan Atkinson is making Johnny English sequels. Let’s just say comedy has seen better days.
Derek and Clive is by no means a great exponent of intellectual comedy – but at least it pushed a boundary, not to mention it is still hilarious. A lot of comedy now pushes no boundaries and isn’t funny. So if you’re bored of Michael McIntyre noticing something and then pointing it out to you in a bid to get laughs and you aren’t familiar with Derek and Clive then be sure to give them a listen – a right funny couple of cunts.