Tommy Cooper was a fez-wearing comedy magician well regarded as one of the most influential figures in British comedy history. A towering figure both metaphorically and literally, Cooper’s ability to make people laugh was such that simple gestures could bring the house down. He also used to tip people tea bags.
Standing an imposing 6ft5 tall, Cooper famously performed every show wearing a fez, which has since become an enduring visual of British pop culture. Impressive considering that, according to legend, Cooper started wearing the hat on a whim. Reportedly stealing it from the head of a passing waiter in Cairo, who we presume was violently beaten several seconds later for not being in uniform, after realising he’d forgotten the costume he planned to wear that night The story goes that the hat got such a huge laugh that Cooper literally wore it for the rest of his career.
That’s not hyperbole by the way because Cooper very famously died on stage in the middle of a performance. Something the crowd didn’t even realise was happening because of Cooper’s habit of pretending to be injured or hurt as part of his show, with one of his favourite jokes being to describe feeling a terrible pain in his chest before pulling out a small sheet of glass.
Anyway Cooper is one of a few people who could genuinely be considered to have earned the moniker of the comedian’s comedian, considering he frequently put other comedians in fits of hysterics with little more than a single gesture or movement. For example, Cooper once made an entire room full of comedians laugh for five minutes straight simply by standing up. Prompting a confused Cooper to exclaim, “I haven’t said anything yet.” which reportedly brought the house down. You had to be there we guess.
Despite his obvious skill as a comedian, Cooper had many vices, one of which was alcohol, with Cooper consuming a legendary amount of booze during his career to the point he would reportedly pour whisky on his morning cereal. Joking to onlookers that it was healthier than milk. As for Cooper’s other vice, that was being a colossal tight arse.
Cooper would endlessly complain about how much things cost and is rumoured to have never, ever given anyone a tip. Often using his skill as a magician to avoid handing over any money. How? Well, Cooper would usually offer people a choice of three envelopes in lieu of a tip, promising that one of them contained a large amount of cash. Cooper would then use sleight of hand to always ensure the person picked an envelope that had no money it. Then you have taxi drivers, who Cooper would always pay with exact change before slyly slipping a little something into their pocket. Telling them as he did so, “have a drink on me“. It wouldn’t be until the person got home that they’d realise that the tip was nothing more than a tea bag. Which yes, while a bit of a dick move, was at the very least, very, very funny.