The Tragic Death Of Tommy Cooper

Welsh magician and slapstick comedian Tommy Cooper was known as one of the biggest entertainers in the world by the 1970s. From making appearances on a slew of popular comedy circuits in Britain, known for his big red fez, the bumbling prop comedian (born Thomas Fredrick Cooper) elicited belly laughs from countless fans throughout his 37-year career. But while the 6'5" actor brought joy to audiences the world over, the on-screen death of the 69-year-old proved to be more shocking than any of his gags ever would be.

As Film Daily reports, Cooper was described as "unusually frail that night." In fact, a makeshift dressing room was created on the set of the variety show just so he didn't have to climb any stairs.

Fans weren't initially surprised when Cooper collapsed to the floor while appearing on the popular variety show Live from Her Majesty's on April 15, 1984. In fact, many believed his slip to be part of a comedy routine. "I was watching on a monitor backstage and we all thought he'd just stuck another physical gag into his set; he was a real terror for introducing new bits and pieces without warning ... but, as time ticked on, we realized something terrible had happened and I called for a quick commercial break," host Jimmy Tarbuck later told Wales Online.

A national nightmare

It wasn't until Cooper remained still for several moments that part of the production crew began to grow concerned. Cooper had suffered a heart attack on live television, according to Wales Online. In a later interview, one member of the production team, Joe Kerr, said: "He did different things sometimes and would change things. Then he went down and stayed down and I thought 'oh my god, what's going on here?"

Cooper was swiftly pulled behind the curtain to the backstage area as crew members frantically searched for the next scheduled act to appear early. Several seconds of blank screen followed as London Weekend Television's master control began transmitting advertisements to fill airtime during the medical emergency. The staff began to administer CPR when they realized that Cooper was not breathing, but their results were fruitless. The beloved comedian was pronounced dead from heart failure at a local hospital soon after.