More TV Memories – The Best Of Tommy Cooper.

The Best Of Tommy Cooper (ITV, 1991-1993)

Tommy Cooper is widely regarded as one of Britain’s best comedians, and his TV career spanned over three decades, where he starred in various shows. His death in 1984 came as something of a shock, in what turned out to be a rather traumatic time for British comedy, as Eric Morecambe, one of the few comedians as popular as Cooper, died not long after.

I am not old enough to remember seeing Cooper’s act on TV first time round, so I was rather interested when ITV showed the compilation series The Best Of Tommy Cooper in the early-90s (and this was followed by the further compilation series Classic Cooper in the mid-90s). Cooper (who must always be described as “befezzed”) found fame by being a comedian who practised magic as part of his act.

Well he tried to anyway, as he had to deal with a lot of the tricks going wrong. Add to this a lot of his rather daft jokes, and this was a style that soon became popular with viewers, he never had much trouble making people laugh, I have to say that I did very much enjoy watching these shows. Most of the sketches from these series were taken from Cooper’s shows in the 70s, when he was arguably at the height of his fame.

As well as trying to perform his tricks, and becoming increasingly befuddled as everything went wrong, there would also be a few sketches, and just like with Morecambe and Wise, plenty of celebrity guests were eager to take part, even though they knew that they were going to be somewhat overshadowed by Cooper’s antics, or made the butt of the joke.

Another regular feature would be an interview sketch where Cooper played a rather bizarre character who couldn’t give a sensible answer to anything. Along with all this, he even had a hit single, and this was back in the days when you had to be an all-round entertainer to succeed, many other comedians in this era where known as singers and actors too.

Beyond this, Cooper appeared as a guest on several other TV shows, where he would always be good value. In more recent years, some of his shows have been released on DVD, and ITV4 liked to show some of his 70s series for a while, seemingly at random points in the day, but it was good to see his shows in full, instead of a compilation. There have also been several documentaries reflecting on his career.


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