In a complete change to what I was going to write about, I’m going to tell you why Tommy Cooper is the single funniest man I’ve seen in my life.
Cooper always made me laugh because he looked bloody weird. Even as a kid I thought ‘this is a giant is a fez doing stupid things and being stupidly funny and letting the audience laugh at him?’ It was remarkable when I was growing up in the 1970’s to see Cooper stand out for not being racist, or cracking dubious jokes about women but just being funny for the sake of being funny. It’s an art which is getting lost in the wave after wave of acts who treat the audience with contempt, or treat the art of comedy as just a stepping stone for a presenting job on BBC Three or a Channel Four panel show.
Part of the problem is that comedy is such a huge industry now, and many getting into comedy think they can just learn to be funny and make people laugh but you can’t. Well, you can if you’ve got the skill and you can’t learn comedy by doing courses at university to teach you stand up. You have to learn to read people in an everyday situation and many of the best comics worked up through the ranks after working in crap jobs, or in Cooper’s case, being part of World War 2.
There’s a lack of realism in say, a Jack Whitehall compared to a Tommy Cooper. Now it’s unfair of me to single out Whitehall as he’s far from the worst example of this age of student comedy, but he’s the apex of bland, safe middle class student humour that makes all mainstream comedy all seem the same.
In Cooper’s day there was a variety. You had a difference and you could empathise with Cooper bathetic routines. I look at the likes of Whitehall and just think ‘you’ve not got any real skill have you?’ as he tries hard to deconstruct his routines as if he was trying to make an essay on modern economics funny.
Really though this isn’t a ‘olden times is better than now’ rant. It’s more pointing out that Cooper was a bloody genius and the bland university stand ups who dominate the scene are just, well, crap.