Archive | June, 2013

Me and Tommy Cooper

14 Jun

In the late 70s my family owned what is perhaps the most novelty item I have ever seen. It was a Tommy Cooper golf game. The aim of the game was to hit velcro balls onto an upright green cloth with a child size metal golf club. The cloth had a picture of Cooper on it and no doubt said just like that all over it.
While the other kids in the street had evil kenevil toys , action men , even bits of old newspaper turned into a hat ,some fluff . I had the most useless and second rate toy ever. A Tommy Cooper golf game. Fortunately growing up on a council estate , no one knew anything about Golf and I think most people assumed he was a champion golfer. I lost the balls and the cloth , I hope it never came with a fez . You might think that the social alienation that occurred during this time , why would anyone want to play with me ?, would leave me scarred or having confused feelings towards the big man. But I must confess. I have always been a big admirer of Tommy Cooper.

Firstly when he wasn’t busily lending his name to novelty games he was funny. And you didn’t really care what he did , but how he did it was masterful.
Secondly he had a highly developed style. It was more than the virtuous feedback circle of the magician who was really good , pretending he wasn’t , and occasionally pulling it off. We knew , that’s he knew, that we knew.
There was also he kinetic delivery style. He never stopped moving. The props table became a really important part of his act. He’s Harry Hills comedy dad.

So I was excited to get hold of John Fishers biography of Cooper. However it was, like the golf game , a bit of a let down.
Fisher , it soon becomes clear, knew and worked with Cooper. So many of the themes in the book are actually about his experiences with/about Cooper. We learn more about Fisher than Cooper. Many issues are not dealt with properly , it is never clear how Coopers relationship with his Wife was affected by him being in a long term relationship with another women. What was that like , was it real ? Fisher seems to nudge and wink around it. He also leads us to assume Cooper hit his wife , but its not clear.
Much of the book seems to be taken up with analysis of where certain parts of his routine came from, or who had done similar things before. Bragging rights to Fisher , but it misses the fundamental. Its not what Cooper says or does that is funny , its how he does it.
Theres a dark side to Cooper thats also brought out but not fully explored. His at times cruelty to his wife, his disdain for the public. His golf game ..no sadly this is not mentioned in the book.

But heres the man at work