Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling was a fictional character played by British comedian Peter Cook throughout his career. Streeb-Greebling (or Greeb-Streebling, depending on Cook's mood) was a stereotype of the upper class English duffer, described as "narrow-minded" and occasionally a "heartless bastard". John Cleese described him as one of Cook's range of "men, particularly English men, so trapped by their culture that they never knew how to live".

He was usually presented in the form of interviews with various comedians or journalists acting as the interviewer, including Chris Morris and Ludovic Kennedy. The most common (and famous) interviewer was Cook's former partner, Dudley Moore, in Beyond the Fringe and Not Only... But Also.

According to William Cook, "Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling was one of Peter's greatest comic creations" and "the character Peter was born to play", because the closest to his own background. Harry Thompson agrees that the character was clearly autobiographical. Ben Thompson called the interviews with Morris "some of the finest work either man has ever produced".

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling:
[...] Now the Greeblings were Picts and they were quite unlike the Streebs, you see, for whereas the Streebs were tall, blond, willowy people, the Greeblings were short, dark, shrublike folk who worshipped the ladder.
Ludovic Kennedy:
Why was that?
Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling:
Well, because they’d never actually seen one, so they couldn’t prove it existed and, naturally, they believed in it. Question of faith, really. Various animals were sacred as well. The giraffe, for example. Legend had it that were a Pict to kill a giraffe, his family would be cursed for all eternity.
Ludovic Kennedy:
How did the Picts know about the giraffe?
Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling:
Well, they only knew the theoretical giraffe, which they revered because it didn’t need a ladder.
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
(BBC2, 1990/91)

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling had a long and illustrious career as a comedy character. Originally created by Peter Cook for Beyond The Fringe and Not Only… But Also, he was an aristocrat used by Cook to satirise any number of things as well as for pure surrealism. But he's probably best known for his attempts to get ravens to fly underwater.

He went on in 1994 to record for Radio 3 a series of five interviews, Why Bother?, with none other than Chris Morris. During the interviews, Sir Arthur talked about his experiments on eels, his role in the racial violence during the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King trial, his military career, including his time in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, and his habit of strangling his business partners, as well as his next project: cloning from the fossilised remains of the infant Christ.

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