"When I go I want to be on stage I want the audience laughing and everyone happy."

On 15 April 1984, Tommy Cooper collapsed on the stage of Her Majesty's Theatre and died.
At that moment he was relieved of life but invested with immortality. 

Tommy died, whilst making a rare TV appearance, as one of the acts on Live From Her Majesty's. The show was compered by Liverpool-born comic Jimmy Tarbuck. 

What was astonishing about this sad night was the reaction - and subsequent 
performance - of Jimmy. 

Jimmy had known Tommy for years and it was a relationship based on pure respect. 
They had first met in 1964 when they shared a dressing room together at the Royal 
Command Performance.

Jimmy was took under Cooper's wing and a friendship was truly formed. Jimmy was
happy to play stooge to Tommy in those last, fateful, seven minutes.

'As usual, he was supposed to make a mess of the last trick,' said Jimmy. 'He was 
wearing a long cloak and said, "There's no trapdoor here." Then a ladder came 
through his legs, followed by a milk churn and a long pole. Finally, I was supposed 
to clamber between his legs and on to the stage.' Jimmy was waiting for his cue 
when he saw Tommy stand back against the curtain, then he appeared to simply 
lean back into it,. A blonde assistant went to help him with his magic cloak. 
An eyewitness said, 'She tied it around his neck and walked off, but as she  turned away all of a sudden he crumpled. His head went back and everyone heard a snoring sound. No one knew if it was a joke or not. Everyone was laughing - they thought it was part of the show.'

Ten minutes later at 8.40pm, Tommy Cooper died.

Meanwhile, neither the live theatre audience nor the watching TV audience were told anything and it was on with the show. After the unplanned ad break, it was Jimmy, dumbstruck and numb,  who went back on stage and filled in with a two and a half minute stand-up slot. 

Jimmy Tarbuck unbelievably carried on with his routine. He didn't know that Tommy had actually 
died. Jimmy said, 'I really don't know how I continued. I really can't answer that. I don't really 
remember what I did. They didn't tell me that he had died, but I could tell it was serious. When I 
went backstage one of the first aid people was giving him the kiss of life. It was numbing.'

Click here for how the Daily Mirror reported the tragic death of the legendary TC.

Tommy loved flowers, his ashes were scattered over some daffodils, in his back garden, by his son Thomas.

'For most people, life is a bloody grind. They do jobs that they hate - if they are lucky enough to have jobs. So when someone comes along who makes them forget their troubles, it's a relief for them. There is something about me that makes people giggle. I honestly don't know what it is and I don't want to know, because maybe if I became too self-conscious I'd lose the gift. All I ask is that when I pop off, people say, "Tommy Cooper? He was a right scream that bloke."
Thomas Frederick Cooper 1921-1984

Source - Tommy Cooper Just Like That - Jeremy Novick

Photo © Thames Television
Mortlake Crematorium, London, site of Tommy's cremation Photo © Kieran Smith