Tommy Cooper: Just Like That Hardcover – 22 Oct 1998
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"I found this old violin and this old painting so I took them to an expert and he said, 'what you've got there is a Stradivarius and a Rembrandt. Unfortunately Stradivarius was a terrible painter and Rembrandt made rotten violins". Funny enough to reduce an audience to helpless tears of laughter? Maybe you had to be there. But that was always the way with Tommy Cooper. With his fez, bungled conjuring tricks, and material like that, he ruled the comedy world.
Jeremy Novick admits early on that to get a feel for Cooper it is no good just reciting his scripts. You really need to watch the tapes, or failing that, to talk to people who know about comedy. Eric Sykes for instance--"who bowed to no one when it came to comedy"--was utterly in awe of the man but in many ways Cooper's is a sad story. "There's only one trick that Tommy always does successfully", claimed his wife, "it's making a drink disappear". But ultimately, when he had his fatal coronary on the stage of her Majesty's Theatre in 1984, it was somehow fitting that at the very end he died as he lived; with people laughing at him. --Nick Wroe