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Tommy Cooper jokes bought from private collector by V&A museum

Thousands of Tommy Cooper jokes, some never used, have been bought by the V&A. Credit: S&G Barratts/EMPICS Archive

Tommy Cooper's "meticulous" archive of gags is set to go on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) after it bought the late comic's collection.

The Tommy Cooper Collection does not contain the stand-up comedian's trademark red fez but includes props, posters and a metal filing cabinet with a vast archive of hand-written jokes filed alphabetically.

Only a small proportion of the jokes were ever used by the entertainer.

Curators at the V&A said that the cabinet shed new light on the "previously unknown, scrupulously organised" working methods of the entertainer, best known for his absurd one-liners and his catchphrase, "just like that".

Some of the 116 boxes of archive material will go on display at the V&A's Theatre and Performance Galleries in the autumn.

A filing cabinet with an A-Z of Tommy Cooper gags are part of the collection. Credit: PA

The jokes stored "with the meticulousness of an archivist" under labels including 'boxing', 'dieting' and 'remarks overheard on planes' is in stark contrast to his bungling stage persona.

The collection, purchased from private collector John Fisher, includes the comedian and magician's writings and observations, some jotted down on the backs of posters and cardboard packaging.

It also features contracts including those which went unfulfilled due to his sudden death in 1984 following a heart attack on live TV.

Posters and props are also included in the collection. Credit: PA

The V&A already holds a collections celebrating key figures in British comedy, including Ronnie Barker, Tony Hancock, Dame Edna Everage and Morecambe and Wise.

Vicky Cooper, the daughter of the late entertainer, said that her father would have been delighted to see his belongings stand alongside those of so many comedy greats.

"I hope it brings as much enjoyment to people as he did when he was alive. My dad would be very proud knowing he was now represented in the National Collection of Theatre and Performance, sitting alongside the likes of Ronnie Barker's archive and costumes worn by Morecambe and Wise and Stan Laurel," she said.

Tommy Cooper's friend and fellow entertainer Ken Dodd said: "Tommy was truly a great and wondrous comedian. He possessed and was possessed by the comic spirit.

"He loved laughter and he loved to laugh. I'm sure he would have been very proud to see so many people enjoy his sense of humour."

A signed photograph in the collection. Credit: PA

The V&A said that it could not disclose how much it paid for the collection.

Senior curator Simon Sladen said: "The Tommy Cooper Collection offers a fascinating insight into one the best-loved entertainers of the 20th Century and reveals much about his practice, process and legacy.

"Although it doesn't contain one of his iconic fezzes, the rich collection contains thousands of hand-written gags as well as unique examples of his comedy props."

After an early career with the Army, Cooper went on to be one of the best-loved TV entertainers of the 20th Century.

He died at the age of 63, shortly after collapsing during a live broadcast from Her Majesty's Theatre, London, in April 1984.