Wednesday 10 April 2013

Spoon jar jar spoon

Watch Tommy Cooper.

He had the figure of a lofty guardsman gone to seed, oilslick hair, a lantern jaw and a beery voice that was little more than a mild growl. His catch-phrase 'Just like that' was uttered like a phlegmy cough - "Djuzzlaitha!" He was elegant in evening dress, shambolic in a suit and nobody looked better in a fez. He could make an audience collapse by doing nothing at all, brilliantly. He's the incarnation of Ed Wynn's elegant dictum: 'A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny.' Tommy Cooper was a comic, and a comedian, and a great magician. The thought of him makes me smile.

Many of his props were obtained from Davenports, a dimly-lit wonder-store in a dank subway near Charing Cross Station, and a place I love to visit. What he did with these off-the-peg props was magisterially incompetent - he lacked, elaborately, the smooth attributes that make merely capable magicians a bore, yet his technical skill as a conjuror was dazzling. I never saw him perform live, but his low-budget front-of-curtain television routines are as close to a live performance as can be - and they remain live, chaos in aspic. Dear old Tommy Cooper!

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