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Nobody “does” Tommy Cooper better than Lincolnshire-based John Hewer. He knows his material inside-out, and it’s not just the most well-known routines that he brings to life, for John presents an astounding mix of “Classic” and “Below-General-Radar” material in his “tribute” shows.

As well as displaying the high calibre of split-second timing that came to typify Cooper routines, John adopts the great comedian’s unique mannerisms, forever fiddling with his hair and goofing in general.

Indeed, Tommy Cooper was world-renowned for being able to reduce his crowds to whimpering wrecks with nothing more than a certain look or stance, such was the intensity of presence that he possessed. Hewer has clearly studied old Cooper routines exceedingly closely, for every element of “Just Like That!” positively reeks of estate-approved authenticity, so much so that Tommy’s daughter has penned the loving foreword for the “JLT!” programme.

Catering to audiences of all ages, “Just Like That!” is, by and large, a one-man show, yet Christopher Peters’ all-too-brief contributions must be applauded wholeheartedly, as they add much to the overall fabric of the show. Providing some of the funniest moments, miraculously with the straightest of faces, Peters laps up the spotlight upon slipping behind his stage-left piano. Of his two Python-esque comedy songs, the funniest focused upon a never-been-kissed librarian unwittingly finding herself led into temptation. When he’s not playing piano, Peters acts as Hewer’s assistant… to genuinely sidesplitting effect.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Tommy Cooper’s repertoire was its scope, its staggering range. Surprisingly, some of the simplest sight gags raised the loudest laughs, not least when Hewer lifted up a metre-rule crowned with four different-sized images of a certain green fruit. ‘Limescale!’ grinned Hewer, jumping straight into the next gig.

To say “Just Like That!” is fast-paced is an understatement of gargantuan proportions; seldom does Hewer pause for breath, darting from one routine to the next with gay abandon. It’s a wonder he can keep up with himself, yet he does, admirably, relishing the longer routines as much as the short-and-sweet moments of pure slapstick.

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It’s often remarked that the success of any given joke depends on the integrity with which it is told. Fortunately, Hewer is painfully aware of such a fact, knowing that practice genuinely does make perfect when it comes to comic timing.

Leaving arguably the funniest sketch to last, Hewer relishes the chance to blast through a routine dominated by the donning of various hats, taking on different characters with each whilst reciting a tongue-twisting Noel Coward poem. The real laughs come when he gets so far through the poem, only to become distracted and flounder, his memorised “thread” unspooling before his lips.

Taking the “sitting ovation” in their stride, Hewer and Peters eventually sent the audience on its way with a lighthearted take on “We’ll Meet Again”, Hewer singing the song amidst melodramatic floods of tears. Thankfully, the only tears shed by audience members were of the mirthful variety.


(Steve Rudd)

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