Farewell Ken Dodd

‘It’s ten years since I went out of my mind. I’d never go back.

The very last of the major music hall acts of the pre-television era (although he still toured relentlessly), one of the few who survived the arrival of television, it’s hard to do justice as to how massive an impact this bloody loony had on British humour – never mind that his stage shows would last anything from three hours to seven (yes, you read that correctly!) depending on what sort of mood he was in. Plumbob helped anyone catching him on the last date of any tour – the usual advice was bring a sleeping bag!

Ken Dodd survived for so long largely due to his incredible comic timing and ability to make a joke out of just about any occurrence or any situation with split-second riposte – whether it be regarding humdrum day to day life or world affairs (‘Did any of us, in our wildest dreams, think we’d live long enough to see the end of the DFS sale?’ – regarding a British home furnishing group perpetually advertising one supposed discount sale after another to the extent the public grew cynical). He even poked fun about his battle with the Inland Revenue in the 1980s for tax-evasion which could have saw him jailed, financially ruined and made a pariah by the press: instead he won the case (one of the few to ever defeat Brian Leveson QC – he of the later famous enquiry which destroyed the News Of The World newspaper).

Everything to him was absurd and up for ridicule, especially himself and his home abode of Knotty Ash – a district of Liverpool – of which he told the tallest of tales of its Jam Butty mines and Broken Biscuit factory run by the Diddymen; either that or to be viewed in a surreal manner (‘It turns out that if you bang two halves of a horse together, it doesn’t make the sound of a coconut.’ ). For everyone and everything in comedy, his was the yardstick you had to be held up against.

He even had a career of sorts as a pop singer – and although ‘Happiness’ became his signature tune, ‘Tears’ in September 1965 was to be Number One for five weeks (stopping both the Beatles and Rolling Stones from reaching the top during that time) and the third biggest selling single of the swinging sixties (the first, second, fourth and fifth were all by the Beatles). As if that wasn’t enough, he was also a Shakespearian actor and appeared in the ‘Delta and The Bannerman’ episode of the original Doctor Who series.

You could almost be forgiven for expecting him to go on forever, but finally at ninety he caught the chest infection which even he could not shrug off. You have to admire the cheek of him secretly marrying two days before his death in order to cheat the tax man one last time – denying them a £4 million windfall they’d otherwise have been entitled to in death duties.

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