Tommy Cooper (March 19, 1921 - April 15, 1984) was a British comedian and magician born in Caerphilly, Wales.
Cooper made an art form of getting magic tricks wrong. He is considered by many to be one of the most inventive and funny British comedians since Charlie Chaplin. However, despite his purported inability to perform conjuring tricks, he was in reality an accomplished magician and member of the Magic Circle. Famed for his red fez, he had a host of catchphrases such as "Just like that!", "Spoon, jar, jar, spoon!!" and "Whisky, sample, sample, whisky, sample...". He would also say things like, "I must say you've been a wonderful audience" or "Have we got time for more?" just after he's walked on.
Tommy Cooper took up show business on Christmas Eve, 1947 after seven years in the Army, and rapidly became a top-liner in variety with his turn as the conjuror whose tricks never succeeded. However, it is probably his television work that catapulted him to national recognition. After his debut on the BBC talent show New To You in March 1948, he soon started starring in his own shows, and was popular with audiences for four decades, most notably through his work with Thames Television from 1968 to 1980.
Tommy Cooper was a renowned heavy drinker and smoker, and suffered a decline in his health during the late 1970s, suffering a heart attack in 1977 whilst in Rome, where he was performing a show. However, just three months later he was back on television in Night Out at the London Casino. By 1980, though, his drinking meant that Thames Television would not give him another starring series, and Cooper's Half Hour was his last. He did continue to guest on other television shows, however, and worked with Eric Sykes on two Thames productions in 1982: The Eric Sykes 1990 Show and It's Your Move.
On April 15, 1984, Tommy Cooper collapsed from a massive heart attack in front of millions of television viewers, midway through his act, on the popular ITV variety show, Live from Her Majesty's. Most of the audience thought it was part of his act and were laughing, until it became apparent that he was seriously ill. He was pronounced dead on arrival at nearby Charing Cross hospital. He was survived by his wife, Gwen (whom he always called 'Dove'), and two children, Thomas and Vicky. Thomas died just four years later from cirrhosis of the liver.
In a 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian, Cooper was voted the 6th greatest comedy act ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He is commonly cited as one of the best comedians of all-time, with several polls placing him at Number One.
Jerome Flynn has toured with his own tribute show to Cooper called Just Like That.