Breakthrough: Media Moments That Changed The World - Tommy Cooper's last ever performance

Jack Murray of tells Kieran about the moment the great entertainer died live on stage.

This week’s moment examines the night that much-loved British comedian, Tommy Cooper, died live on stage – and television – in 1984. The audience and crew at Her Majesty’s Theatre were slow to realise what was happening and thought it was all part of the act. This column looks at the risks of televising events live on air – anything could happen. 

Tommy Cooper was born in Wales, but he grew up in Exeter with his parents and brother, David. Tommy got his first taste for magic at the age of 8 when an aunt bought him a magic set. He spent hours perfecting tricks and developed into a very talented magician. But it was while he was stationed in Egypt during World War II that Tommy developed a comedic element to his act. Accidentally, he discovered that messing up tricks prompted a better reaction from his audience of soldiers than any of his magic tricks did. So he developed his act to include slips and mistakes that would result in laughs.

While in Egypt, it was during a botched trick that he first wore his trademark fez, or tarboosh, hat. He had forgotten a prop and instead grabbed a hat from a passing waiter to put on his head. Today, his tasseled hat on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. For 30 years, it was in the hands of a writer after Tommy gave it to him while working a Wine Gums advert days before he died.

After the war ended, Tommy continued with his comedy act and eventually became a TV favourite and had a career television career that spanned four decades.

When Tommy’s television career was well-developed in the 1960s, his brother David opened a magic shop. The shop remained in business until earlier this year when Tommy’s niece was forced to close it.

Though, he was known for making people laugh, there was a dark side to Tommy Cooper, who suffered from alcoholism, had a mistress and repeatedly beat his wife Though he found success in his comedy act, he still liked to perform professional magic and impressive tricks backstage.

Listen to the rest of his story by clicking below.

You can read the full column on Tommy Cooper by clicking here -