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While tribute bands are two-a-penny, it’s rare to come across a comedy tribute – something that makes John Hewer’s flawless tribute to Tommy Cooper all the more welcome.

Having made a name for himself courtesy of the show’s rapturously received run in London’s West End, Hewer (armed with as many writing and directing credits as acting credits) has hit the touring circuit, having treated Yorkshire-folk to a flurry of performances over the past few months with well-attended shows in Bridlington, York and Pocklington.

Accompanied by ace pianist Christopher Peters, who trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Hewer dominates any stage to which he is granted access, his hair-fiddling, laugh-inducing mannerisms so similar to those expounded by Cooper that it’s hard not to convince oneself that it’s the real Tommy Cooper up in front of you.

With a table brimming with props to his left, Hewer was free to roam around the stage, charismatically mixing and matching a melee of one-liners, monologues and purposefully dud magic tricks. Having garnered the approval of Tommy’s daughter, Vicky, it was good to know that The Tommy Cooper Estate was all for Hewer’s out-and-out celebration of Tommy, a comic who continues to regularly top “Most Popular Comedian Ever” awards.

One of the funniest routines had Chris (concealed behind a strategically-placed curtain at the back of the stage) feeding items of different sizes through Hewer’s cape, giving the impression that Hewer was making such items magically appear out of the ether. Later, with further assistance from Chris, Hewer attempted to shoot two balloons by firing a gun over his shoulder whilst using a mirror to aid his aim. As in the earlier trick, the “magic” was borne out of Hewer’s inability to properly execute the feat, the hilarity that ensued consuming the entire audience.

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When he’s not acting the proverbial fool as Cooper, Hewer can often be found appearing in other shows, the fact that he co-runs a production company with his sister giving him ample performance opportunities. A die-hard fan of innocent, old-fashioned, expletive-devoid comedy, Hewer is also partial to performing material either previously performed or inspired by the likes of Tony Hancock and Steptoe & Son.

Given that Tommy Cooper passed away in 1984, when I was just four years old, I’d neither seen nor heard much of the material that Hewer expertly brought to life. Still, the majority of the crowd was evidently far better acquainted, a Cooper-obsessed gent seated directly behind me going so far as to finish many of the jokes before even Hewer had chance. Ordinarily, such “inconsiderate” behaviour would have angered me. However, owing to the hilarious nature of such jokes, I forgave the man his eagerness to deliver each joke’s pun before Hewer, not least because I got to hear each pun twice: testament to the fact that many of the punch lines once spouted by Cooper get funnier the more times they’re heard.

“Just Like That!” will continue to be toured during 2017, with Hewer and Peters poised to visit a town or city near you soon. Visit www.hambledonproductions.com for more details.

(Steve Rudd)

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