It’s 33 years since Tommy Cooper died while performing on the ITV show Live From Her Majesty’s at the age of 63.
On April 15th 1984, Tommy was almost at the end of his routine when he suddenly collapsed just before the first commercial break, causing pandemonium in the Outside Broadcast (OB) van outside the theatre relaying the show to ITV’s Central HQ and from there to the nation.
Neither the audience in the theatre, nor the viewers at home, realised that they’d witnessed Tommy Cooper’s final performance.
I’m going to court controversy here, because although he was born in Caerphilly, it’s a bit of a stretch to describe Tommy Cooper as a “Welsh Comedy Legend”, as some local newspapers describe him.
The same papers often print jokes they claim were Tommy’s but are obviously Tim Vine’s!
It’s understandable why local papers claim Tommy as ‘one of our own’.
While several top Welsh comedians present and past are/were very funny men, those whose fame spread beyond Offa’s Dyke and had long careers – making them legendary – are in short supply. That the big man in the fez is a comedy legend is without doubt.
But at the age of three, Tommy and family moved to Exeter. That’s why, when we watch the repeats and clips of the madcap magician, he speaks with a thick West Country burr.
Can someone who didn’t start his comedy career until 20 years after leaving Wales truly be described as a Welsh Comedy Legend?
Just try contesting it with the good people of Caerphilly, where an impressive statue of Tommy stands opposite the castle.
If you’re a fan of Tommy, pay it a visit – and pop into the adjacent visitor centre for a cup of tea and a Welsh Cake. They don’t sell Exeter cakes!
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