Adam and Eve started the the double-act business, while others like Burke and Hare. Jekyll and Hyde, Roy Rogers and Trigger, and Batman and Robin, have played their parts.
On Sunday, though, in The London Palladium Show, the longest or shortest double act of them all (it depends upon which partner you are concentrating) is topping the bill.
Name of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Or Dudley Moore and Peter Cook if Dud happens to be your friend.
There are people who swear that Pete and Dud are the best double of the day — better even than the one on sale at the local pub. What is beyond doubt is that they are probably the best educated.
Pete went to Cambridge with a view to a career in the Foreign Office, while Dud went to Oxford.
Though not, as his partner maintains, with a view to a career in the Foreign Legion. That, in Dud’s opinion, is not even a “beau jest.”
Pete is the long, sauve, debonair one — what Dud calls 6ft. 2½in. of gangling cynicism. While Dud is just debonair and suave — sort of small, cuddly and passionate, to quote shh… you know who.
I talked to both and found it no good asking how they became partners, because they are still asking themselves that. It was just one of those things — and what a song title that would make.
They agree that TV was the marriage broker of their individual careers. Very much a “marriage” of opposites.
Dud’s a talented jazz musician and composer with magic fingers, while Pete doesn’t know his “A’s” from his “E’s.” Pete’s married and has two children, but Dud is a bachelor.
They met when that smash hit revue “Beyond the Fringe” was an idea. A London restaurant was the rendezvous and they sat there eyeing each other suspiciously.
Both thought much the same: “Heck, it’s only for one week so I’ll appear with him.” So far, that one week has lasted six years.
Pete says he couldn’t imagine teaming up with anyone else, although adding with a light laugh that he did meet Ernie Wise on holiday and jokes about a change of partners.
Dud sniffs good-naturedly at the veiled threat. “I shall be only too happy to go into partnership with Kathy Kirby. Pete’s just jealous because they asked me to take over from Roger Moore.”
Pete would like it known that, although appearances would suggest otherwise, he is the younger. “However, I am sure that the more discerning of viewers have already spotted it.”
Dud? “Yes, it’s true Pete’s younger, but the audience know I am the more experienced. Helping a lame dog over the stile and encouraging new talent.”
The banter continues on the subject of billing. Pete says blandly that he is above trite argument and like any other fair man is willing to settle for alphabetical order.
Dud’s Oxonian sophistication is equal to the occasion. He maintains that as alphabetical superiority is the only thing Pete’s got, then let him have his way.
The partners have never had a row — but like all Scouts are prepared should one happen. “If it ever comes to a punch-up,” says Pete, “I fancy my chances. Do remember, though, that he is nippy on his feet.”
“And what is more,” says Older Moore, “I would wear him down with body punching.”
Dud and Pete are the comic’s best friend. They laugh at all comedy acts. Yet the surprising thing is they know only two jokes between them.
“I can’t remember jokes,” says Pete. “But then I hope we’re more humorists than comedians. When we plan our act we think in terms of comedy situations and dialogue. Say Dud as a jockey and me as a racehorse owner.
“We switch on a tape recorder and ad-lib how the sketch might develop. We don’t actually write things down.
“This is because I can’t read my writing and Dud’s got a cramped hand.”
On Sunday afternoon, Dud will start to grow a little nervous and gloomy as transmission time draws near. Pete helps to keep up morale.
But, eventually. Pete gets affected, too, and it’s then that Dud brightens the mood. As a kind of safety valve, they spend the final minutes in the dressing room trying out a host of character parts and voices.
Soon, when Dud moves into his new house at Hampstead, they will be neighbours. Ready for that day Pete has already bought his partner a ping-pong table for a present.
“The reason for my generosity,” he whispers, “is that I haven’t a spare room in my own house. He will have to make room in his and all I have to do is stroll up the road for a game.”
“Huh,” says Dud. “What Pete doesn’t know is that when he goes on holiday I’m going to put a squash court in his bedroom.”