Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 39
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Sawbridgeworth
    Posts
    25,126

    Default Si Hunt Takes Down Tommy Cooper

    By popular demand, I pledge once again to shatter your dreams and pee all over your cherished icons. The series continues, until everyone gets cross with me.

    Tommy Cooper then - undoubtedly loved, even a "legend". Let's have a look at some of his "jokes":

    I slept like a log last night. I woke up in the fireplace.

    Sometimes I drink my whisky neat. Other times I take my tie off and leave my shirt hanging out.

    Man walks into a bar. Didn't half hurt. It was an iron bar.

    I had a ploughman's lunch the other day. He wasn't half mad.


    Do you ever get the impression comedy in the seventies was slightly less sophisticated? Someone tried to bring down "The Royle Family" in the other thread, which is less a sitcom but a wry and bittersweet observation of family life. It's hard to imagine this sort of thing, which studies, captures and idolises middle class family life, can be even compared to what often passed as "comedy" previously - here, basically a bloke telling little more than Knock Knock jokes in a funny hat.

    It was often said that Cooper's comedy would fail when delivered by anyone else - you can see the point, examples being the time he walked on stage with a tap on a string and brought the house down by saying "tap dance!". It seems, then, what we have is either an audience with a very primitive sense of humour, or a man who simply possessed an ability to make people laugh by acting dumb.

    However, it's hard to see how his long-suffering family didn't completely tire of his moronic comedic routines:

    "He once went into a tailor's shop to buy a suit, trying it on he asked a member of staff if he could take it for a walk round the block. When they consented he took a block of wood from his pocket, put it on the floor and walked around it before saying 'Fine. I'll take it.' There was also the time he walked into a library, asked for a pair of scissors and cut the bottom off one of his trouser legs before handing it to the librarian saying 'There's a turn-up for the books.' He continued this in his home-life with his wife Gwen reporting frequent instances of rubber spiders, snakes that sprang out of tins and books that burst into flames."

    Rubber spiders? This man was voted the 6th best comedy act of all time recently.

    In his private life he was also a rampant drinker and occasional wife batterer - I'm failing to see the joke here.

    It seems to me that lots of acts that passed for comedy in the past wouldn't pass muster today, because although there is less of it, our very best comedy is a million times more sophisticated. Certainly with Tommy Cooper, looking back I see only a tin-pot magician and tedious joker, and not really a "legend" at all. Cooper is never repeated on TV these days - I'm thinking that there's probably a good reason for this.

    Bring him down I say! Albeit uncharitably and by speaking ill of the deceased.

    Just like that! Hilarious? Hardly. Or perhaps you can plead a case for the defence?

    Si.

  2. #2

    Default

    My dad is a big fan but I agree with you.

    Do Morcombe & Wise next!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Isle of Wight
    Posts
    5,065

    Default

    I'm in full agreement with Si on this one. I never understood why he was so popular.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Surrey
    Posts
    5,822

    Default

    Heresy! I am one of the people with a very primitive sense of humour. I laughed at all teh gags you quoted there especially the turn up for the books one!
    Tommy Cooper had the same quality Harry Hill has which is that ability to reel off a load of silly gags at such speed that you don't have time to think about the crap ones. So his comedy was fairly old school, so what? Does comedy really have to be sophisticated all the time?
    Also I loved his magic tricks. Often they were rubbish but that was the point. He would throw in a brilliant bit of conjuring just when you thought he was crap.
    His sketches on his tv show were terrible though. He was a much better live performer.

  5. #5

    Default

    In his private life he was also a rampant drinker and occasional wife batterer - I'm failing to see the joke here.

    No particular opinion on Tommy Cooper as a whole - I've laughed at some of the limited bits I've seen, but had no particular inclination to seek out more, but I'd like to pick up on this comment.

    Is it actually a requirement that entertainers be nice people? People without demons? Or is it particularly directed at comedians? If so - why?

    Marlon Brando had numerous problems - does it make him a worse actor?
    Karen Carpenter was anorexic - does that make her music worse?
    Jimi Hendrix died of a drug overdose - likewise?

    We should not expect our entertainers to be perfect role models. We should not *expect* anyone to be. And I think throwing a criticism of someone's private life into a criticism of their work is disingenuous.
    The Doctor's almost as clever as I am!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Manchester
    Posts
    2,642

    Default

    Tommy Cooper had a unique combination of charisma and timing which enabled him to be so much more than his act appeared on paper. The gags may no seem like much when you see them written down but they were the jokes which worked for his act. His writers over the years were top draw - Barry Cryer, Eric Sykes, Cooke & Mortimer, Spike Mullins, Dick Hills, Eric Merriman, Barry Took and dozens of others - and they knew the difference between a Tommy Cooper joke, a Morecambe and Wise joke and a Frankie Howerd joke. Far from being generic 'knock knock' jokes, they were Tommy Cooper jokes and just as a cover version of a song is rarely as good as the original, so his jokes were never as funny coming from someone else.

    The people who enjoyed Cooper's comedy in the 60s and 70s weren't stupid - tastes simply change. They probably listened to ITMA and thought their parents were fools for laughing at that. Or watched Charlie Chaplin films and wondered what was so funny about a little man with a moustache.

    People laughed at Tommy Cooper because they found Tommy Cooper funny. You can't prove or disprove whether he was funny. What he was was an immensely talented comedian who did what he did because it was popular for thirty years.
    Dennis, Francois, Melba and Smasher are competing to see who can wine and dine Lola Whitecastle and win the contract to write her memoirs. Can Dennis learn how to be charming? Can Francois concentrate on anything else when food is on the table? Will Smasher keep his temper under control?

    If only the 28th century didn't keep popping up to get in Dennis's way...

    #dammitbrent



    The eleventh annual Brenty Four serial is another Planet Skaro exclusive. A new episode each day until Christmas in the Brenty Four-um.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Downstairs by the PC
    Posts
    13,050

    Default

    for Lissa.

    Also, I knew he was a drinker, but was he a wife-batterer?

    And also also, I'm beginning to think Si is the anti-Batman, in that he doesn't think anything was any good before 1980.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Sawbridgeworth
    Posts
    25,126

    Default

    Maybe I should stop before I've haemoraged all my friends?
    Is it actually a requirement that entertainers be nice people?
    Well no, which is why that wasn't what I based my argument on. But it didn't read well when, after researching this rather simple, eccentric, obvious-gag based comedian with a drinking problem, I found out he'd hit his wife as well.

    That said, I'm dubious about bashing your missus being comparable to anorexia on the 'lamentable character trait' front - I feel a bit less sympathy with the latter.

    Si.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    ...
    Posts
    4,747

    Default

    I don't get it though I've not really seen alot of his work. I don't get Morcombe and Wise either. I can see the appeal of the Two Ronnies but M and W seem very twee to me.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bracknell, Berks
    Posts
    28,915

    Default

    I always thought the bad jokes told with precise timing was part of the joke on Tommy Cooper's part myself. So I'm afraid I agree with Lissa, Si. He's silly and he makes me laugh. Actually I liked Paul's comparison with Harry Hill- most of the people I know just don't get what's funny about him, but he always makes me laugh. Maybe this is just the same thing for you?

    That said, I'm dubious about bashing your missus being comparable to anorexia on the 'lamentable character trait' front - I feel a bit less sympathy with the latter.
    Fair enough, but then you've probably never seen one of your cousins down to 4 stone because she simply wouldn't eat and she still considered herself overweight.

    Si xx

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Wokingham
    Posts
    7,947

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WileyKat View Post
    In his private life he was also a rampant drinker and occasional wife batterer - I'm failing to see the joke here.

    .
    and he's not the first big name star to have a darker side in his private life both Tony Hancock and Peter Cooke had their own personal deamons but just like with Tommy Cooper in never detracted from their geniuss..

    I'm all so with Lisa, on this one I'm no fan of Cooper, but I have laughed at his jokes and there are many of today's stand up comedians will have a lot of respect for Cooper.

    Like him or hate him he is up there with the all the other great British comedians..
    Last edited by Larry; 4th Dec 2006 at 8:03 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Isle of Wight
    Posts
    5,065

    Default

    Maybe I should stop before I've haemoraged all my friends?
    Definitely not. The last thread shows this is a popular topic of discussion. Some people will agree with you, others will disagree but we're all friends here. Let the bring downs roll.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Slough
    Posts
    313

    Default

    well I for one like Tommy cooper as a kid his jokes were new me some off the old one are still said today
    he was a funny and still make me Laugh when I hear some of his jokes and is tom foolery

  14. #14
    Trudi G Guest

    Default

    I have never seen the appeal of Tommy Cooper - he just wasn't funny in any sense. I am totally with you on this one Si.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Sawbridgeworth
    Posts
    25,126

    Default

    Fair enough, but then you've probably never seen one of your cousins down to 4 stone because she simply wouldn't eat and she still considered herself overweight.
    I did of course mean the FORMER - a slip of the typing fingers there. I would never find more sympathy with a wife beater than with a sufferer of an eating disorder, Si.

    Si.

  16. #16
    Captain Tancredi Guest

    Default

    I've never been much of a fan- I think when I was little (and he was at the height of his popularity) he was just a bit too grotesque in appearance and scared me a bit.

    That said, I think there's something in the way that an act with such a paper-thin premise (obvious puns and a conjuror who can't) lasted for so long. Cooper's act could never be described as sophisticated or topical, but the gags were tailored so well to his persona that he could just stand there for 5-10 minutes and entertain. So not a favourite, but I can see something there, I think.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bracknell, Berks
    Posts
    28,915

    Default

    I did think it was a bit odd Si. Glad you've cleared that up though.

    Si xx

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Sittingbourne, Kent, UK
    Posts
    2,403

    Default

    My case for the defence is very simple: he makes me laugh.

    Why does the fact that his comedy seems not to be on a par with a so-called 'sophisticated' comedy of more modern times automatically make it crap? He was not trying to be clever, or twist some observations of daily life to show us how ridiculous it is. He just tried to make people laugh, and you can't deny he succeeded.

    Does that mean his audience were unsophisticated? Not unless 'sophisticated' means ' so far up your own arse there has to be some deeper meaning and significance to everything that you can analyse in great depth before you'll laugh at it.'

    And as for his magic acts, they were far from simple. Quite a few of them appeared to go wrong, yes, but often not until after they had impressively gone rigt, or else they 'went wrong' in ways that were actually just as clever as if the trick had had the expected outcome. In that sense he could be described as a sophisticated comic, because he took something the audience were familiar with and then undermined it at the last second. One I always remember is the one with the three different volume containers in which you pour the liquid from one to the other. Miraculously, the liquid from the small one seems to expand to fill the medium one, and then again to fill the large one. Then you pour them all back. Now that's an easy trick (and one that TV producers use a lot when they want to make it seem like someone is gulping a huge volume of liquid very quickly): you use trick glass containers that actually hold the same volume of liquid but are specially made to make it appear that they are holding more. What Tommy Cooper did in this case was to pour the liquid from the small into the medium and then the medium into the large, and just when the audience thinks they know what's coming next and how it's done, he poured the liquid back from the large to the medium and suddenly there was enough to make the medium one overflow! Now, although it appeared to have gone wrong, and his reactions suggested it had, that's actually a very clever trick and beautifully executed.

    So what if he doesn't do witty satire or cleverly constructed humour? The thing about comedy is that different things make different people laugh. I cannot see the appeal of The Office or The Royle family, for instance, both lauded as great examples of sharp. cutting satire of daily life.

  19. #19
    Pip Madeley Guest

    Default

    for Jason!

    And I feel the same about him, he just makes me laugh. I'm not sure I could watch him for more than half an hour at a time, but when you need a bit of a chuckle, Tommy's good for it.

  20. #20
    Wayne Guest

    Default

    I watched a re-run of 'The Best of Tommy Cooper' (compilation of best bits from over the years) with my Dad last xmas.
    Basically, yeah it made me chuckle for 10mins or so, but he was a bit of a one trick pony to me. After 20mins of the same type of thing, i was bored.
    But my Dad loves him. Just the look on his face is enough to make my Dad laugh. He doesn't even have to say anything. Which is something i can relate to, because i'm exactly the same about Eric Morcambe & Vic Reeves. Some people just have something about them that makes 'em funny, And Tommy had that for many, many people, even if i'm not really one of them.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Sawbridgeworth
    Posts
    25,126

    Default

    Eloquant defence by Jason there.

    I think it depends on how you view comedy. I think in the past, there was a lot more comedy that was structured as: guy gets up on stage with the aim of making you laugh. You might say this is just "standup" and I guess you'd be right. But there's something about "have a go" comedians that has always made me uncomfortable - it's like they're trying too hard to stimulate you into laughing, almost to control you, and coming over a bit pitiful into the bargain. There's a fundamental undercurrent of something pathetic - like this person has to make you laugh to be of any worth, and I think that's why a lot of comedians of the old school variety end up saddled with depression and alcoholism - it's because of the essential nature of that comedian/audience relationship. A bit "Greatest Show"-eseque. Stand there, do something funny and earn your money. It's a bit humiliating, and I find comedy of this transparent type a very bizarre thing. Laughing should be spontaneous, and here laid bare is someone being paid to make you laugh by any means possible. It makes it a bit artificial.

    That's why I prefer more subtle forms of comedy. Clever modern sitcoms that don't so much do things and expect you to laugh but parody funny things in life that make you laugh if and when you happen to find resonance with them. If a seventies sitcom or comedian has rubbish jokes, there's nothing left. But more modern forms of comedy are INTERESTING and often grotesque as well as funny, and in an odd way that's kind of what allows you to relax and find it amusing as well. You arn't expected to laugh.

    I've no idea if I explained that well or not. That all said, I have loved traditional standup in the past, the likes of Victoria Wood and Jasper Carrott, but I think that's just because they are very, very witty - the "funny because it's true" angle.

    Si.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Surrey
    Posts
    5,822

    Default

    Jason's defence was brilliant. Cooper was a great magician in the same way Les Dawson is a great pianist.
    And I don't quite get your argument there, Si. Surely sitcoms and other types of comedy are trying to make you laugh to prove themselves as well? Surely its the same as the guy standing on stage making you laugh? just presented differently.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Sawbridgeworth
    Posts
    25,126

    Default

    I knew I didn't explain it very well! When you watch a drama you don't expect to laugh, so personally I find it easier to when something amusing happens. Modern comedies seem to offer a different slant - previously you'd stick four people in a house and make them say funny things, and the emphasis is on "how funny can they be?". If there are no jokes, then all you have is four dull people in a house. But when you twist the format and make the characters dramatic foremost, then the humour seems to arise naturally out of that. Perhaps I'm just trying to restate that old rule - good comedy has to be good drama first. If it's real, and interesting, then it can be then be funny. I suppose at the other end of the scale you have comedians just standing there trying to make you laugh and there is nothing else, so I feel I'm being manipulated and find it harder to be amused.

    Ack, I can't explain it.

    Si.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Surrey
    Posts
    5,822

    Default

    No. I don't think you can.

  25. #25

    Default

    I've always liked his act personally, which is the main thing. As far as "sophisticated" or, for want of a better word, "simplistic" humour go, I think there's always been examples of both around depending where you look, although of course, different styles can predominate and go in and out of fashion.

Similar Threads

  1. Richard Cooper
    By dalekkiller in forum Adventures In Time and Space
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 18th Nov 2013, 4:01 PM
  2. Jackie Cooper RIP
    By Darren in forum Film and Television
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 5th May 2011, 2:20 PM
  3. Dave Lewis brings up "Si Hunt takes down..."
    By Dave Lewis in forum Film and Television
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 4th Feb 2007, 1:44 AM
  4. Si Hunt Takes Down "Open All Hours"
    By Si Hunt in forum Film and Television
    Replies: 55
    Last Post: 4th Dec 2006, 7:41 PM