John Cooper Clarke, The Eternal Runner-up in the Ronnie Wood Lookalike Competition
Words: Ralph Mexico
Maybe you know John Cooper Clarke through ‘Evidently Chickentown’ playing over the end credits of a Sopranos episode. Maybe you know him because head Arctic Monkey Alex Turner believes John Cooper Clarke is William Shakespeare, Peter Cook and Alan Stilltoe combined. Maybe you know “The Bard of Salford” through the Honey Monster ads he did in the eighties. Maybe you know “Johnny Clarke, the name behind the hairstyle” from his 2013 appearance on Have I Got News For You. Maybe you know “The Eternal Runner-up in the Ronnie Wood Lookalike Competition” from the Ian Curtis flick Control. Maybe you know the name, but not the face or the voice. Maybe you know the shades and the scarecrow hair, but not the name. Maybe you know the voice but not the shoe-size.
That’s a whole lotta maybes. It’s time for some certainties.
John Cooper Clarke gigs are terrific. He is a raconteur, a poet, a comedian, an absurdly wonderful entertainer. He will be in The Pavilion on May 21st. Every man woman and child with a semblance of taste will be laying garlands at his feet.
Three times I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him satisfy the laugh-lust of the masses. In 2000 he was a mere slip of a lad of 51 who performed as part of The Cat Laughs Festival. He blew everyone else that appeared in Kilkenny that year, and every year since, off the stage. The concert was a riot of gags, poems, spoken word pieces and jokes. Lots and lots of very, very funny jokes.
In the mid-2000’s he was astonishingly good in Whelan’s, Dublin. Every line was a zinger, again every joke hit its target. And this time he recited a plethora of “The Hits” to wild applause.
He pitched up in the Mindfield area of Electric Picnic a few years back on a Saturday evening. He had the place shaking with mirth. Fintan O’Toole and Roddy Doyle were in hysterics sitting on the ground nearby. This may or may not be a recommendation.
Cooper Clarke really does seem to be getting better with age. He’s now 65. He’s put in the hours with heroin, poverty, ill-luck and punk. He’s lived a mighty life so we didn’t have to. He’s given the world so much. Head along to The Pavilion on May 21st to repay him in some small way. If you don’t laugh until your fillings rattle I’ll call around to your house and shampoo your carpets for you. This could very well be The Gig of the Year.