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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2007
If by 'definitive' Fisher and his publishers mean wordy, then it's certainly a fair description of this hefty tome.

Having said that, Cooper fans will enjoy this thoroughly researched and affectionate portrait of one of the greatest British entertainers of the last century. Some of the chapters on the ins and outs of Cooper's career, dealt with in extraordinary detail, might have benefited from some gentle editing. Equally, some may feel they would have liked more on Cooper the man. Fisher does eventually get round to delving into Cooper's personal life, his alcoholism, his other health problems and, of course, his infidelity, but only in any depth during the penultimate chapter.

It's an uneven book, but clearly a work of love by the author and he succeeds in reminding the reader what a great and fascinating man Cooper really was. Fisher retells countless jokes and routines to great effect, so much so that you can almost relive Cooper performing them. And that in itself makes this book a marvellously rewarding read. If Ken Dodd can still fill theatres up and down the land, imagine what Tommy Cooper could do if he were alive today. The mind boggles.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2007
Nobody has a pedigree like John Fisher for writing about Tommy Cooper and, as expected, this is a superb book. Fisher, a TV producer who wrote Funny Way to be a Hero some time ago about variety comedians, worked with Cooper on the box and was responsible for the excellent Heroes of Comedy documentary series - but above all he's literate, takes his subject seriously and his transparent love for the man doesn't mean he conceals his failings although the emphasis is on the development of his craft.

Writing about comedy is difficult - at least I've often been disappointed by what I've read (the Eric Sykes book about his faves barely scratches the surface in most cases, and Simon Louvish - Laurel and Hardy - and Roger Lewis - Sellers - persist in imagining autobiographical pointers in every last scrap of their subjects' material) - but John Fisher's book does not disappoint and is a fitting tribute, especially as its author had access to the papers of Cooper's late agent and the comic's own jottings. The death, incidentally, is dealt with sensitively and movingly.
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Probably difficult to write a book about a comedian-magician as well known and well-loved as this where everyone has their own treasured memories of him and their own version of his jokes and capers and I think in fairness that the author has done a good job, although it's true this book does drag at times and it has trouble getting started too. It often feels like it's a trawl through Miff Ferrie's (Tommy's long-suffering and somewhat rigid agent) records and sometimes it struggles to get away from being an academic essay where references to bits of information the author feels should go in are pulled into sections where they then sit awkwardly and disturb the reader's flow. I wish truly that there were more photos too, but then you can say that about a lot of biographies.
The author is prone to make awkward and controversial generalizations - see in particular the point about domestic violence and who is the victim near the end of the section Health and Home Affairs.
What did I like about this book? - there are lots of facts and if you're in a mind to store them up and follow them up, then this is the book for you. If you want to get a quite balanced view of Tommy's character and what those closest to him felt and thought, then this is also quite good for that (although it's sadly lacking in material from his wife Gwen; and also from his lover Mary Kay). It's also good for starting you off on the journey of learning about Tommy and the next stop would probably be the Internet for videoclips of some of his acts and performances. However, you won't find a lot of his early material around and the book explains this: in the early days of TV, a lot of programmes were deleted so that the tapes could be reused. Sad, but true.
In summary - it's informative, detailed, balanced and at times downright interesting, capturing quite a lot of the magic of Tommy and his circle of friends and family
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2007
I had high hopes of this book. I wanted to find out more about one of the great comedians of the 20th Century. The hopes were not met. The book drags terribly; it attempts to gain an understanding of Tommy by reflecting on other comedians and magicians who could have influenced him. As I do not know many of the acts mentioned, I found it a read that quickly became impenetrable.

I notice from other reviews that folk either seem to love or loathe this book. SO, at the end of the day, I guess it is for other folk to make their minds up about this tome.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2007
Born in Caerphilly, Tommy Cooper is one of Britain's best loved comedy legends.

John Fisher's book is meticulously researched as is plain from the list of contributors whom the author acknowledges.Written with the cooperation of Cooper's family it does not refrain from telling a warts and all story of Tommy.

Many of Tommy's jokes and sketches are excerpted such that I found myself laughing out loud as I read another anecdote of Tommy's wind-ups on colleagues ,partner or wife. To read the book is to realise how lucky and privileged people were to be around the legend that was Tommy Cooper.
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on 26 August 2014
Very interesting book. This is a proper biography by an accomplished author, John Fisher, who also includes his own occasional recollections of the Giant of Comedy. This book gives a compelling account of Tommy Coopers professional life, since the 1950s on TV & sometimes on radio, until his untimely death at just 62. This account pulls few punches & you get a warts & all canvas of the Man in the Fez. The relationship between Tommy Cooper & his managing agent Miff Ferrie, is a central theme throughout. If you enjoyed Tommy as a performer, you will be absorbed in this biography. Excellent reading.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2007
To me, Tommy Cooper was one of the all time greatest comics, and this book really does his legacy justice, and is rich in detail of his personal life and his legendary work.

Although author John Fisher clearly has a great love and respect for Tommy, he's not afraid to detail his weaknesses and faults too - especially his love/hate relationship with his life-long agent - leading to a well balanced, very well researched and thorougly enjoyable book that occasionally made me laugh out loud.

If you are a fan of Tommy, or a fan of classic British comedy and comedians, I can't recommend this book highly enough.

A fitting tribute to a much missed legend of comedy.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2007
I love Tommy Cooper and I hate books like this. It seems to be written by someone who is intent on showing off his knowledge and his "inside information".

This book is clumsily written, it doesn't flow and it's very hard to read. The author is intent on showing off his knowledge of obscure (and not-so obscure) comedians and magicians and rambles on for page after page, sometimes without mentioning Tommy Cooper. The book could and should have been much shorter - and would then have been much better.

I loved the story about Tommy in the Casbah and the Fez seller - I just hope it's true.
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on 25 May 2014
I agree what other reviewers have said. Too much info about agents and contracts could have done with some editing and it wasnt until the last few chapters that I really found out what T.C. was like. Chapters could have done with being a bit shorter as at times I found myself losing interest, especially when talking about contracts and agents which I know nothing about. Also comediens in past times, of which I have never heard of!
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on 26 April 2015
The author has so many vignettes to pass on. (Being a fan both of TC and Dean Martin I loved the one about their meeting.) Why does he have to obsess about the fees paid to TC and the percentage his manager demanded? Remove all the financial tittle tattle and you would be left with a volume one quarter of its size, but far more interesting.
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