You are in the Special Features section - Tommy Cooper Remembered

Jane Merrow

 

 

 

Digger caught up with Tommy Cooper tribute act Clive Greenaway, and his show 'Tommy Cooper Remembered'.

 


     

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 was re-born."

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 that."

 


 

Clive's web site can be found at:

Tommy Cooper Remembered

There's also a great Tommy tribute site at:

Tommy Cooper - Almost a Magician

 

 

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