March 12, 2018
The Liverpudlian comic was ‘one of the last of the music hall greats’, his publicist says
Sir Ken Dodd, legend of comedy, dies aged 90
Tributes have been paid to the entertainer Sir Ken Dodd, who has died at the age of 90 just two days after getting married to his long-term partner.
Dodd died on Sunday in the house in which he was born in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, his publicist said. His wife, Anne Jones, was at his bedside.
The actress Claire Sweeney was one of those to eulogise the comedian.
“Ah, Ken Dodd has died. So happy I got to meet him once, and more importantly, saw him do one of his incredible five-hour shows,” Dodd’s fellow comedian Dara Ó Briain wrote on Twitter.
“He was an education to watch and, afterwards, at 1.30am, he had beers with me in the dressing room and talked showbiz. A privilege, and a loss. RIP.”
The actor John Challis, who played Boycie in Only Fools and Horses, tweeted: “So sorry to hear we have lost Ken Dodd. I met him once and I’ve never forgotten it. Gawd bless ‘im.”
Dodd was known for his lengthy stand-up shows, his tickling sticks and Diddy Men. “To my mind, he was one of the last music hall greats. There is no one else that comes close,” said his publicist, Robert Holmes.
“He passed away in the home that he was born in over 90 years ago. He’s never lived anywhere else. It’s absolutely amazing. With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety. He was a comedy legend and a genius.”
Dodd, who was also known for his unruly hair and prominent teeth, only recently performed his very last show, at the Auditorium in the Liverpool Echo Arena, on 28 December.
But all his 2018 dates had to be cancelled when he was treated in hospital for six weeks with a chest infection.
He had promised to carry on when he left hospital on 27 February. “I’m going to teach my legs how to work again, they’ve forgotten you know, and once I’ve recovered myself I’ll get back to doing the job, which is the only job I’ve ever had,” he said at the time.
“While I was in here, I wrote some new jokes, so it should be all right.”
In the 1960s, Dodd entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever – 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours.
His TV shows included the Ken Dodd Show, Beyond Our Ken and Ken Dodd’s Laughter Show. He also had the longest-ever run at the London Palladium, 42 weeks, in 1965.
In 1994, his show An Audience With Ken Dodd was filmed and released on video, followed in 1996 by the Ken Dodd: Live Laughter Tour and then Another Audience With Ken Dodd in 2002.
He was also a well-known singer and in 1964 he released his first single, Happiness, followed by smash hit Tears in 1965, and then Promises. Dodd was knighted in honour of his decades-long showbiz career and charity work in March last year.
The entertainer’s career began after his father bought a Punch and Judy for his eighth birthday and he began charging school friends twopence to sit on orange boxes and watch the puppets. It was a penny to stand at the back and a cigarette card for the hard-up.
In his spare time, the former choirboy was singing and developing a stand-up comic routine at working men’s clubs. The scripts were written by his father, the costumes prepared by his mother. He described himself as “Professor Yaffle Chuckabutty. Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter.”
The Theatre Royal, Nottingham, was where he made his 75-a-week debut in 1954 as Professor Chuckabutty, and within two years he was topping the bill at Blackpool.
In 1989, he was forced to open up about his private life as he went through a five-week trial on allegations of tax fraud – ending with his acquittal.
Dodd told the court: “Since I am stripped naked in this court, I might as well tell you the lot. I am not mean, but I am nervous of money, nervous of having it, nervous of not having it.” He described money as a yardstick of success, saying it was “important only because I have nothing else”.
The trial transformed Liverpool crown court into a sell-out theatre, with fellow comics Eric Sykes and Roy Hudd called as character witnesses.
Dodd’s counsel described him as a fantasist stamped with lifelong eccentricities – such as keeping love letters in a safety deposit box and hoarding £336,000 in the attic – due to a close-knit family upbringing.
Last year, as he turned 90, he told the Guardian a comedian needed to “build a bridge” to the audience. “You can’t do a show at an audience – you have to do a show with an audience and structure the act so that you start with the “hello” gags, then the topicals, then the surreal stuff.
“Eventually, you can go wherever you want and say whatever comes into your head: ‘How many men does it take to change a toilet roll? I don’t know. It’s never been done’.”
Tribute was also paid by the actor, Lee Mead, who won the BBC competition Any Dream Will Do. “Sad to hear the news of Ken Dodd this morning. A man who gave us much joy. Led his life, and career with dignity. Lucky to have met the man,” he tweeted.
The comedian Gary Delaney called Dodd “one of the all time greats”. He joked: “The funeral will be held on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday.”
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