My favourite Peter Cook sketch: the Thorpe trial summing-up

by Stephen Tall on August 18, 2012

Last night Channel 4 repeated that episode of Clive Anderson Talks Back when Peter Cook takes on the persona of four comedy characters — an oddball UFO-spotter, a quirk old-school football boss, a faded ’60s rockster, and (joyfully, inevitably) an out-of-touch judge — and breathes a life into them which elevates each above mere caricature.

The latter character reminded me of perhaps Peter Cook’s finest hour: his impersonation of Mr Justice Cantley summing up the 1979 Jeremy Thorpe trial, with its epic pay-off line to the jury:

You are now to retire (as indeed should I) carefully to consider your verdict of not guilty.

You can enjoy all seven-and-a-bit glorious minutes of it here.

And if some of the trial detail loses you, it’s well worth reading Simon Freeman and Barrie Penrose’s Rinkagate: The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Thorpe. Or, more quickly, Thorpe’s Wikipedia entry.

Incidentally, the man who successfully defended Jeremy Thorpe from the charge of conspiracy to murder was that redoubtable QC, George Carman — father of Dominic Carman, the Lib Dem candidate in the 2011 Barnsley by-election.