Digger caught up with
Tommy Cooper tribute act Clive Greenaway, and his show 'Tommy Cooper
Did I tell you about the man who walked into a bar
and said "Ouch"? It was an iron bar.
Clive, left and Tommy Cooper with trademark fez.
The late, great,
Tommy Cooper had an incredible knack of holding an audience even
before he even walked onto the stage. There would be
a buzz of expectation and
then a surge of affection as soon as the man appeared. The audience
would be in fits of laughter before he said a word or did anything.
Such was (and still is) the
British people's love of the man, we all felt as though we knew him
and as though he belonged to us.
Clive Greenaway pays
tribute to Tommy Cooper with his show 'Tommy Cooper Remembered'.
Tommy Cooper is probably Britain's best-loved magician,
if he can be described in such terms, making, as he did, a joke and
a laugh out of his bumbling attempts at magic tricks. Tommy is
sorely missed and still
very popular today, both in people's memories and via DVD and
TV. And now Clive helps to keep Tommy's memory very much alive, and
is in great demand all over the country with his tribute show.
Clive began his
career in entertaining way back in 1989, serving his apprenticeship
in the uncompromising world of London comedy clubs and culminating
in many appearances on TV's 'Stand-Up Live'.
1992 saw Clive move into the slightly more sophisticated world of
corporate after-dinner speaking. Since 2001, the magic show had
grown and grown. Audience participation is now the most popular part
with both corporate and private audiences. Who doesn't want to see
the 'boss' in the guillotine? Or left to levitate in mid-air? Clive
can include any number from one to ten 'glamorous' assistants from
the audience and he is always happy to hear any special requests.
The late, great Tommy Cooper
I ask Clive what is
it about Tommy that makes him so loveable and loved? "It just
took the audience back to their childhood humour and they felt they
could laugh out loud. They felt as though they were being let in on
the secret whenever things went wrong." So how hard is it to
replicate Tommy's mannerisms and behaviour? "It's quite hard as
it is all in the timing. You have to listen to the audience to
know when to change expression and movement." Does Clive have
any favourite lines and tricks of Tommy's? "Bottle glass,
glass bottle' or 'jar spoon, spoon jar'. Also creating magic from
nothing as he had to do during the war."
Tommy Cooper is
probably the best and most popular of British comedians since
Charlie Chaplin. Of course, his evident ineptitude disguised a
massive talent as a first-class magician although he always played
it just for laughs. He was a member of the Magic Circle and his
fluffs and gaffs were meticulously well rehearsed.
I ask Clive how
popular is Tommy with the younger generation? " It's normally
the 40 plus age group that I perform for but whenever there are
youngsters in the audience they always enjoy it and laugh at their
parents laughing at me." Clive tells me how he got started with
Tommy. "I used to do 'stand up' which included some comedy
magic and a small section on Tommy, people started to ask for more
Tommy whenever I was re-booked. Dove (Tommy's widow) gave me
Tommy's last fez for good luck with my act and the Tommy Cooper show
Clive appeared on the
Richard and Judy show as Tommy. I ask him what was it like having
Judy Finnegan stroke your head in front of her husband?
"Very touching", he replies. Is there anyone around today
who can match the stars of the past, like Tommy, Benny Hill, Frankie
Howerd and Kenneth Williams, I ask him. " I don't think that
there ever will be." How long can Clive's act go on for any
evening before he runs out of material? "I have to work as
directed which can be from 10 minutes to 2 hours. If I were to
include everything it would probably take 5 to 6 hours."
Tommy was six foot
four with size thirteen boots and a gentle giant who liked his booze
and ciggies, which probably contributed to his early death. The
famous fez which he wore came as a result of a chance incident in a
Cairo bar where he swiped the hat from a waiter whilst trying to
make some soldiers laugh.
What is the strangest
venue Clive has had to perform at and what's the strangest request
he's had? "There was one chap who was quite ill but a huge
Tommy fan. I was asked to do a show at the hospital for
him." Clive regularly gets treated as if he is Tommy.
"People love to shout 'Tommy come and show us some tricks' -
especially when I'm wearing the fez."
This love we have
for the man reminds me of a similar reaction I saw when I went to
see a Queen tribute - the audience behaved as if the singer WAS
Freddie Mercury and he had us eating out of the palm of his hand.
I ask Clive how much fun is it being a Tommy tribute and are there
any drawbacks? "It's the best job you can imagine, the only
drawback is I have to come out of character at the end of the day
although sometimes I dont!"
What makes Clive
laugh, what makes him sad and what makes him cross?
"Tommy makes me laugh, it makes me sad that he's no longer
here. What makes me cross is when people are so eager to see
the props they think it's okay to pick everything up and play
around with it. I can understand their curiosity but NEVER
TOUCH A MAGICIANS PROPS!" What's the funniest response Clive
has had to one of his shows? "One audience had arranged
without my knowing to all stand up at the end and shout 'just like
that'. So I've incorporated that into my act. When I
performed for the Tommy Cooper society, Vicky, Tommy's daughter
told me how much she had enjoyed that act - that was the best
response I've ever had."
What would Clive
be doing if he weren't a Tommy tribute? "I'd still be
doing magic but I wouldn't be as funny! Everything's five
times funnier when you put a fez on!"
And its true. Tommy
still has the knack of making us smile so many years after his
untimely death. He still makes us laugh "Just like
Clive's web site can
be found at:
There's also a great
Tommy tribute site at:
Cooper - Almost a Magician
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