Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 19th

Some people might find this tasteless, but I can't help writing about Tommy Cooper, considered one of Britain's all-time favorite comedians. His primary schtick was bad puns between failed magic tricks, which went over huge with post-WWII audiences all over the UK.

What fascinates me is Tommy Cooper's final show, at Her Majesty's Theatre, for a 1984 broadcast TV special. He was performing his 'magic cloak' bit, an old standard where random objects of increasing ludicrousness emerge from his tunic and such, when, in a twist, he collapsed onstage.

He tumbles behind the curtain, with only his feet in view; the audience, still laughing. Meanwhile, the crew backstage realize it's not an act. As the story goes, the broadcasters cut to commercial, while his crawler (secret assistant) pulls him in from behind the curtain; when his feet disappear, the audience starts roaring again. The show must go on, so it did, while the ambulance arrived and medics attempted to revive him. He never made it to the hospital.
Some people find his death a tragic moment, as tragic as any death can be. But I also think it's a compelling story (and I'm not the only one; someone's looking to make a movie about the last week of his life.) A comedian who left them laughing: how many lives have that kind of poetry?

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