John Cooper Clarke - or, as he's invariably titled, "punk poet John Cooper Clarke" - featured in an hour-long BBC4 programme last night, and turned out to be a wryly amusing interviewee. There were the usual famous-name interviews from the likes of Steve Coogan and Billy Bragg about what a national treasure he is, and how he took poetry to the working classes away from its "Lonely as a cloud" image, etc. etc., but that's the nature of these programmes. Given what a witty and engagingly self-deprecating talker Cooper Clarke is, though, more of him and less of his self-important fans would've been welcome.
The old heroin habit which knocked a decade or so out of his career is over, gone, finished. He's back performing and writing, in fine form. Or, as one Mancunian called out to the famously skeletal poet on the street, "Hey, Cooper Clark, get back on the smack you fat bastard."
I posted his two best-known pieces, Beasley Street and Chickentown, a while back. The "real" Chickentown has "fucking" in place of "bloody" as the poem's constant punctuation. As Cooper Clarke said, showing it on the BBC gives the bleeper-out man repetitive strain injury, but to their credit they did the full uncensored version this time.
Not, thankfully, a national treasure, but still a fine hour's worth of viewing - on iPlayer for 7 more days.
Here's an amusing Guardian interview with him from Tuesday. And here, from 2010, is the man in action, on killing Dracula, ("embedding disabled by request" unfortunately) - a lesson to all those smug stand-up comedians, from a master of the art.