Repartee: "I'm writing a book." "Neither am I." (attrib Peter Cook 1984)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 28 19:26:22 UTC 2013

Nigel Rees provided me with additional information about the Peter
Cook attributed quotation. The October 2001, Volume 10, Number 4 issue
of the "Quote Unquote Newsletter" published by Nigel contains an entry
on this topic. (This newsletter issue is available in Kindle format
from Amazon in a compilation covering the years 1997-2001.)

The relevant cartoon by Barry Fantoni was published in Private Eye on
December 15, 1972. A reproduction of the cartoon appears in the Kindle
newsletter compilation. As noted in my previous message Barry Fantoni
(writing in the Guardian UK shortly after the death of Peter Cook)
credited Peter Cook with the caption.

[Begin excerpt from Quote Unquote Newsletter of October 2001]
While Cook was still alive, this was quoted on the radio show by
Richard Ingrams (his colleague on Private Eye Magazine) in 1984. In
the next year, Penny Vincenzi told me that Cook had told her it was
not original to him.  Brian Robinson then stumbled across this cartoon
in the Eye (15 December 1972), where one bookish type is saying to
another, ‘I’m writing a book’ and gets the reply, ‘Neither am I.’
[End excerpt]

Nigel in his email to me said the following:

[Begin excerpt]
As a curious coincidence, only yesterday I was reading a copy of Quips
and Quotes (2012) by Richard Ingrams in which he definitively states
that the idea for the Barry Fantoni cartoon was from Peter Cook
(though as you will see from the above he apparently disclaimed
[End excerpt]


On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 4:52 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Repartee: "I'm writing a book." "Neither am I." (attrib Peter
>               Cook 1984)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Fred Shapiro asked about the following joke:
>> Neither am I.
>> Peter Cook ... on being told that the person sitting next to him at a dinner party was "writing a book"
> There is evidence that the joke appeared in a cartoon that was created
> via collaboration between Peter Cook and Barry Fantoni. There are
> multiple claims that the cartoon was published in the UK periodical
> "Private Eye", but currently I do not know the time frame.
> After Peter Cook died The Guardian UK published "Satire's brightest
> star Peter Cook" on January 10, 1995. Friends of Cook shared memories
> of his life. The cartoonist Barry Fantoni wrote an article that
> mentioned the joke. Fantoni claimed that the caption of a cartoon that
> he drew was given to him during a conversation with Peter Cook.
> The text of the Guardian article is apparently available at the
> following link. The term "he" refers to Peter Cook:
> Title: Satire's brightest star - part 4
> Author: Barry Fantoni
> [Begin excerpt]
> During a big fight or cup match on TV, he would ring me, or I him and
> we'd watch the contest in our own homes, while at the same time
> amusing each other with personal observations. This would have a
> particular poignancy, and more jokes if Spurs were playing - Peter was
> an avid Spurs fan.
> It was during such TV phone-ins that more general jokes would come
> about. The only time I drew a cartoon with a caption by Peter, arose
> from such a bout of casual banter. Two men are talking in a pub. One
> says: "I'm writing a book." The other says: "Neither am I."
> [End excerpt]
> Here is a blog article that references the cartoon, but no date is given:
> Title: Neither am I.
> Date: January 5, 2011
> [Begin excerpt]
> In a famous Cook and Fantoni cartoon (from Private Eye ages ago) two
> badly drawn men are standing together at a party. One says, “I’m
> writing a book”, the other replies, “Neither am I”. It was funny
> because it seemed everyone claimed they were at the time. Writing a
> book was the pre-internet dream ticket to money and fame, but few got
> around to it.
> [End excerpt]
> Here is another reference to the cartoon. In this instance the caption
> is different. The word "book" is replaced by "novel".
> Title: Q&A: Peter Florence Answers Your Questions
> Publication: Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
> Date: May 24, 2003
> Database: Questia
> [Begin excerpt]
> ......any books? If not, why not? A: There's a cartoon that the great
> Peter Cook wrote with Barry Fantoni. Two guys are standing in a bar
> and one of them says, 'I'm writing a novel'. The other says, `Neither
> am I'.
> [End excerpt]
> I have seen several comments of the type presented above; however, the
> cites do not  identify the time period of the cartoon. Barry Fantoni
> is alive, and he may know the date of publication.
> The other main piece of evidence for the quotation is from Nigel Rees.
> Who states the joke was attributed to Peter Cook during the Quote
> Unquote BBC Radio program in 1984.  Here is what Nigel wrote in
> Cassell's:
> [ref] 2001, Cassell's Humorous Quotations, Compiled by Nigel Rees,
> Section: Conversational gambits, Page 94, [Cassell, London], Sterling
> Pub. Co., New York. (Verified on paper) [/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> On being told that the person sitting next to him at a dinner party
> was 'writing a book':
> 6  Neither am I.
> Peter Cook, English humorist (1937-95). Quoted by Richard Ingrams on
> BBC Radio  Quote ... Unquote (25 August 1984), though Cook declined to
> claim it as original.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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