For the uninformed, Tommy Cooper was a British comedian and magician who entertained audiences for four decades. He’s consistently voted as one of the finest comedians in British comedy. He also wore a fez for almost his entire career, yes, even before Matt Smith did.
Though fezzes (or fezes, it can be either, don’t be an asshole) are a fashion item with a rich and fuzzy history, we’re going to save that for another day to talk about their effect on pop-culture. As you’re probably aware if you’ve watched Dr Who or are a fan of terrible cos-play, Matt Smith, during his stint as the eleventh Doctor, wore a fez with the intent of trying to make Tumblr explode. He failed because Loki exists but we digress.
Annoying, children and teenagers today will likely associate the headgear with Smith, which although accurate is unfair, since by our count Smith has only wore the hat about four times, Cooper wore it for nearly 40 years. And unlike Smith, Cooper earned his the honest, British way, by stealing it from a foreign person.
The oft-repeated story is that while performing during WW2, Cooper was supposed to be in costume for a sketch, however, even though he’d planned the sketch and had rehearsed it several times, he completely forgot his costume. Rather than go back and get it, he improvised and stole the hat of a waiter, who we presume was violently beaten several seconds later for not being in uniform, but hey Cooper got his laugh.
He then proceeded to wear a fez for his entire career up to and including the night he literally died on stage. Doctors claim he suffered a heart attack, but ghost doctors claim God just needed entertainment for King Arthur’s birthday party.
Cooper was also a legendary tight-wad and reportedly hated spending his money and whenever he found himself in a situation in which tipping was appropriate, he’d quietly slip something into the person’s top pocket while winking and saying “have a drink on me”. When that person would later check their pocket, they’d find a teabag.
Though several iterations of the Doctor have donned fezzes in the past, it’s a little unfair that today the hat is now mostly famous for sitting on Matt Smith’s head for a few episodes, instead of on the head of the 6ft4 giant who served in WW2, performed 52 magic shows a week and once made an entire room full of comedians piss themselves with laughter, by standing up.