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Tommy Cooper
Tommy Cooper (March 19, 1921 April 15, 1984) was a British comedian and magician born in Caerphilly, Wales.

Cooper made an art form of getting magic tricks wrong. He is considered by many to be one of the most inventive and funny British comedians since Charlie Chaplin. However, despite his purported inability to perform conjuring tricks, he was in reality an accomplished magician and member of the Magic Circle. Famed for his red fez, he had a host of catchphrases such as "Just like that!", "Spoon, jar, jar, spoon!!" and "Whisky, sample, sample, whisky, sample...".

Tommy Cooper took up show business on Christmas Eve, 1947 after seven years in the Army, and rapidly became a top-liner in variety with his turn as the conjuror whose tricks never succeeded. However, it is probably his television work that catapulted him to national recognition. After his debut on the BBC talent show New To You in March 1948, he soon started starring in his own shows, and was popular with audiences for four decades, most notably through his work with Thames Television from 1968 to 1980.

Tommy Cooper was a renowned heavy drinker and smoker, and suffered a decline in his health during the late 1970s, suffering a heart attack in 1977 whilst in Rome, where he was performing a show. However, just three months later he was back on television in Night Out at the London Casino. By 1980, though, his drinking meant that Thames Television would not give him another starring series, and Cooper's Half Hour was his last. He did continue to guest on other television shows, however, and worked with Eric Sykes on two Thames productions in 1982: The Eric Sykes 1990 Show and It's Your Move.

On April 15, 1984, Tommy Cooper collapsed in front of millions of television viewers, midway through his act, on the popular ITV variety show, Live from Her Majesty's. Most of the audience thought it was part of his act and were laughing, until it became apparent that he was seriously ill. He was pronounced dead on arrival at nearby Charing Cross hospital. He was survived by his wife, Gwen (whom he always called 'Dove'), and two children, Thomas and Vicky. Thomas died just four years later.

In a 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian, Cooper was voted the 6th greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He is commonly cited as one of the best comedians of all-time, with several polls placing him at Number One.

A selection of Cooper's jokes

  • I slept like a log last night. I woke up in the fireplace.
  • Man walks into a bar. Didn't half hurt. It was an iron bar.
  • I've got the best wife in England. The other one's in Africa.
  • I had a ploughman's lunch the other day. He wasn't half mad.
  • My dog took a big bite out of my knee the other day and a friend of mine said, "Did you put anything on it?" I said. "No, he liked it as it was."
  • I think inventions are marvellous, don't you? Wherever they put a petrol pump they find petrol.

Honours
In a 2005 poll The Comedians' Comedian, Cooper was voted the sixth greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He is commonly cited as one of the best comedians of all-time, with several polls placing him at number one.

Jerome Flynn has toured with his own tribute show to Cooper called Just Like That
 


 

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