“I SAW him in Brighton once,” said a woman spotting a poster of Ken Dodd outside the City Hall the other day. “He was still going at 1.30am. And I was on the early shift the next day!”
Dodd is notorious for taking to the stage - and not leaving.
There’s no scheduled end to his shows. He just carries on as long as he wants to and as long as the audience carries on laughing.
“Laughter is the most beautiful sound and the most beautiful sight in the world,” he explains.
He’s now 86 and in his 60th year as a professional entertainer, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down or giving up the stage.
“It’s my jolly jubilee year,” he says. “I’ve never even thought about retirement. Why should I when I love every second of doing my job? I’m what they call stage-struck.”
Dodd is from the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, where he still lives in the 17th century farmhouse where he was born.
As a child his father would take him and his brother and sister to the theatre, where his love of entertaining has its roots.
“I realised the captain of the ship was the comedian,” he says. “The man in the checked suit would come on and entertain everyone, and I decided that was what I wanted to do.”
He put together a ventriloquist act when he was eight or nine. “I did my first show and I got half a crown. I tasted success and it went on from there.”
He helped his father in the family coal business then worked as a door-to-door salesman while entertaining as a sideline, before turning professional in 1954.
Since then he has topped the bill at theatres around the country and on television, becoming a familiar face in sell-out seasons at the London Palladium, Birmingham Hippodrome and Blackpool Opera House.
He has appeared in many a Royal Variety Show, was the first recipient of the Living Legend Award in the British Comedy Awards and has been awarded an OBE by the Queen.
He’s also had numerous hit records, even knocking The Beatles off the number one spot in 1965 with Tears.
He recalls seeing the Fab Four play in their earliest days in Merseyside. “They were terrible,”
he recalls. “I met Paul much later and he mentioned it. I said ‘God, was that you?’ and he said ‘Yes. We were awful’.”
Dodd has played ‘legitimate’ roles (the quote marks are his), playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Yorick in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Hamlet, although he can’t resist referring to Sir Kenneth as Kenneth All-bran. But making people laugh has always been his number one love.
“I’ve never done the same show twice, because every audience is different,” he says.
He keeps books of jokes, observes people wherever he goes and writes down material whenever inspiration strikes.
“I try out new material all the time,” he says. “It’s like bungee jumping. I’m always on tour. I’m a gigster; I do one night stands.
One night is all they can stand,” he adds.
But even after 60 years, his shows are still packing in the audiences. He says. “People come to my shows wanting to be entertained and escape the cares and worries of everyday life for a couple of hours (at least!)”
Dodd’s joy in life and in performing is seemingly irrepressible. “Life is a most wonderful experience,” he enthuses. “I’m so lucky that I have had such a lot of happiness.”