Life with Cooper
I love that Tommy Cooper started his life ship building, did magic tricks in his spare time and then realised one day that it was funny if he fluffed the tricks. Thus was his profession as a very good magician who mainly got it wrong on purpose, born. I have just realised that the Goes Wrong Show in the last post is a direct historical descendant of the type of humour in Cooper's act. In between we have Les Dawson, who as my father used to say, must have been a very good pianist to play the piano that badly.
This show is rather atypical for Cooper's act, because while his usual shows were his act plain and simple, this show has an element of each episode also having a story, within which he is his normal bumbling self. I really like that aspect of the show, and it is used to bring other people in. I particularly like Sheila Hancock with her head stuck in park railings. Warren Mitchell is another guest, so this show functions like a sitcom as well as a comedy show with guests.
I also love that it is so much of its time (the sixties) and the sets are perfect examples of the time. Externals show the London of the time with wonderful cars.
You could criticise this show - you can see the punch lines coming miles off, for example. There is a biography out about Cooper - apparently he and his wife threw furniture at each other and he never, ever bought a round, which is a no no as we know.
Chicago Calling (Welcoming me back, I hope):ReplyDelete
When Thames Television scored major US sales with Benny Hill, Don Taffner (the American producer who brokered the original deal) decided to go all in with other British comics, targeting the late night market in the States.
Taffner put together a package which he called And After Benny, Thames Presents ..., a rotating series of four different comedy shows (what we in the USA would call a wheel):
Most likely, you remember most of these yourself, but for the record, here's how I saw them in Chicago (Channel 32, which ultimately became the Fox Network station here - but that's another story ...):
- What's On Next, a Laugh-In clone with Bill Franklyn, Bob Todd, Barry Cryer, Jim Davidson, Sandra Dickinson, Anna Dawson, Pam Ayres, Andonia Katsaros, and a few others who were in and out.
(I hadn't intended to name so many of the performers, but I wanted to see how many of them I did remember).
- Cribbins, which combined a couple of series that Bernard Cribbins did for Thames, with Bob Todd and Terence Brady in support, among others.
- Frankie Howerd in several shows he did for Thames, mainly The Howerd Confessions, which attracted some pretty potent guest stars (I remember the night Linda Thorson showed up; my brother and I nearly fell out of our chairs).
- ... And last but far from least, The Tommy Cooper Show!
In these Thames shows, Tommy's usual straight man was Allan Cuthbertson, who usually played serious parts on dramas and crime shows. He really held his own with Tommy Cooper, whose usual pose was that he didn't quite seem to know what was going on in the sketches, never mind the magic.
I enjoyed all of these shows, and hoped that Thames and Taffner would put together some more; sadly, After Benny didn't catch on, and simply ran its course.
In the years since (post 1980s), I've done what I can to learn more about these various comedians: YouTube has helped somewhat, but there's a lot I've obviously missed out on.
Some books I've been able to find have helped, but they're hard to come by here (expensive, too, comes to that).
Anyway, I'm welcoming this excuse to write to you again, especially since it's been so long since the last time.
So if you see something American that catches your fancy, give a shout-out!
Great to hear from you again, Mike. I am wondering why I have never heard of What's On Next, so now have to do some research of my own...Delete