British comedian TOMMY COOPER (1921–84) was fashioned from foolish compound clay, like a mountain with a stupid face. With Falstaff, he could claim that nobody exceeded the laughter that “I invent or is invented on me”; he merely had to lumber on stage to cause hysteria. He’d perform some lousy magic tricks — grunting “Uh-zuz-zuz-zuz-zuzerzz” — then graveled his famous catchphrase: “Just like that.” He knew that nothing is, or ever will be just like that. (So did Heidegger, but Heidegger never wore a comedy fez.) Cooper’s act was almost pure form, appealing to our Lizard-Brain Amoebic-Proto Triggers. He was the Priapus of the Gut Howl, and the laughter invented on him never went away: Himmler would have snickered had Cooper testified at the Nuremberg Trials. Then, in 1984, during a live TV show performance, Cooper broke from his magic routine and put his hand to his temple, mumbling, “Uhzz, I really don’t feel very well.” (Big laughs.) He stumbled a little: “Oof-uhhz.” (People roared.) Then he collapsed like a giant meat-chimney, dust-plumed with clouds of laughter. It was the only time Tommy Cooper ever died on stage.
BRITISH HUMORISTS as HILO HEROES: Tony Hancock | James Joyce | Peter Sellers | Edward Lear | Jerome K. Jerome | Jimmy Finlayson | Stan Laurel | Screaming Lord Sutch | Eric Idle | Roald Dahl | Joanna Lumley | Keith Allen | Ricky Gervais | Steve Coogan | Sacha Baron Cohen | Stephen Merchant | PG Wodehouse | Flann O’Brien | Samuel Beckett | Kingsley Amis | Tommy Cooper
READ MORE about members of the New God Generation (1914-23).