Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Godspeed Sir Ken Dodd

Legendary Liverpudlian comedian Sir Ken Dodd died on March 11 at the age of 90. His career spanned over sixty years and he still performed up to last year.

Sir Ken Dodd was born in Knotty Ash, Liverpool on November 8 1927. He sang in the choir at St. John's Church in Knotty Ash and attended Knotty Ash School. Ultimately, he called Knotty Ash his home his entire life, dying in the same house in which he was born. Mr. Dodd attended Holt High School in Childwall, but left when he was 14 to go to work for his father, who was a coal merchant. It was as a teenager that he became interested in show business, sending off for a book on ventriloquism advertised in a comic. Not long afterwards his father bought him a ventriloquist's dummy. He then started performing at various community functions and the local orphanage. When he turned 18 he became a travelling salesman and performed in comedy clubs at night.

His big break came in 1954 when he performed at the Empire Theatre in Nottingham. He made his television debut in 1955 in an episode of The Good Old Days. That same year he appeared in a TV episode of  It's a Great Life (not to be confused with the American sitcom of the same name) and the television special Red Riding Hood. He guest starred on such shows as Northern Showground, Six-Five Special, and Stars at Blackpool. He was a regular on the show Points North. It was in 1959 that the long running Ken Dodd Show began. It aired until 1969.

In the Sixties Mr. Dodd appeared on the TV shows Juke Box Jury, Top of the Pops, Omnibus, and Thank Your Lucky Stars. He appeared frequently on The Good Old Days, while continuing to star on The Ken Dodd Show. For a time he starred on Doddy's Music Box. In 1969 when The Ken Dodd Show ended, he began starring in Ken Dodd and the Diddymen. His single "Happiness" charted in 1964 and his single "Tears" became one of the best selling singles of the Sixties in the United Kingdom. Beginning in 1965 he spent 42 weeks at the London Palladium.

Ken Dodd continued to be a presence on British television in the Seventies. He starred on the shows Ken Dodd in Funny You Should Say That, Ken Dodd's World of Laughter, and The Ken Dodd Show. He appeared on The Good Old Days, Top of the Pops, Seaside Special, Stars on Sunday, and The Golden Shot. At the Royal Court Liverpool 1974 he set the record for the longest joke-telling session. It lasted three hours, thirty minutes, and six seconds. The record is still listed in The Guinness Book of Records to this day.

In the Eighties Ken Dodd starred in Dodd on his Todd, Doddy!, Ken Dodd's Showbiz, A Question of Entertainment, and Ken Dodd at the London Palladium on television. He guest starred on the show Doctor Who, as well as The Good Old Days, The Saturday Show, Looks Familiar, Saturday Night Out, and Sunday, Sunday, among others. In the Nineties he starred on An Audience with Ken Dodd on television. He guest starred on The Stuart Hall Show, Dennis the Menace, and The Canterbury Tales, as well as Noel's House Party, GMTV, Face to Face, and Heroes of Comedy, among others. He appeared in the TV movie Alice in Wonderland and the feature film Hamlet (1996).

In the Naughts Mr. Dodd starred on Another Audience with Ken Dodd and Ken Dodd's Happiness on television. He appeared on the shows Behind the Laughter, The South Bank Show, The Best of the Royal Variety, Dawn French's Boys Who Do Comedy, Parkinson, Arena, This Morning, and Newsnight. In the Teens he starred in Talking Comedy and Ken Dodd: In His Own Words. He appeared on such programmes as My Favourite Joke, Timeshift, Fern Britton Meets..., Mastermind, and Granada Reports, among others.

Sir Ken Dodd was considered "the last great music hall entertainer" and it would be difficult to argue with that assessment. He had a gift for one-liners, which he could often issue rapid-fire. This was made all the more remarkable by the length of his performances, which could last hours. What is more, he was not only talented at telling jokes, but he was a skilled ventriloquist and could sing as well. While the Diddy Men were part of Merseyside lore before Mr. Dodd popularised them, he made them an integral part of his act. Sir Ken Dodd was such a success for so long simply because his humour appealed to nearly everyone. It was broad, could often be silly, and when he was cheeky it was in such a way that it would not offend anyone, not even parents with small children in the audience. While many of his contemporaries fell by the wayside, Sir Ken Dodd remained popular until the very end.

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