Took was born in Muswell Hill, North London and brought up there during the war, running away from the home in Wisbech to which he had been evacuated. It was during his period of National Service that he began performing seriously, and it was also then that he met his first wife, Dorothy, known as Dot, with whom he had three children: Barry, Susan and David. He later worked as a stand-up comedian, eventually becoming a West End revue performer, working on For Amusement Only and For Adults Only.
In terms of his comedy writing, Took was the writing partner of Marty Feldman and wrote for several seminal radio and television shows in the 1950s and 1960s, including Round the Horne and The Army Game spin-off Bootsie and Snudge. He co-wrote Beyond Our Ken for two seasons (1958-1959) with Eric Merriman for BBC Radio before leaving after a disagreement with his fellow writer.
In the late 1960s, Took became Comedy advisor to the BBC and was responsible for bringing together the performers who formed Monty Python's Flying Circus before moving to the USA to work briefly on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. He returned to the UK in early 1970, was involved in setting up the The Goodies, but had returned to take up the position of Head of Light Entertainment at London Weekend Television.
In 1977, Took hosted his own comedy sketch show, Took and Co. Also featuring Robin Bailey, Chris Emmett, Andrew Sachs and Gwen Taylor, the series ran for seven episodes late night on ITV. In 1978, he created and wrote the innovative literacy programme On the Move which starred Bob Hoskins and Donald Gee.
An image of Took was momentarily flashed on the screen during the BBC's introduction to its hit TV series Life on Mars.