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Ken Dodd

Kenneth Arthur Dodd OBE (born November 8, 1927) is a veteran English comedian and singer songwriter, famous for selling over 100 million records, his buck teeth, frizzy hair, feather duster (or "tickling stick"), and his catchphrases, often playing on the 'tickled' motif, ex: "How tickled I am!". He works mainly in the music hall tradition, although, in the past, has occasionally appeared in drama, including as Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night on stage in Liverpool in 1971; on television in the cameo role of 'The Tollmaster' in the 1987 Doctor Who story Delta and the Bannermen; and as Yorick (in silent flashback) in Kenneth Branagh's film version of Shakespeare's Hamlet in 1996.

Style, career and achievement

His stand-up comedy style is fast and furious, relying on the rapid delivery of a huge number of one-liner jokes. He has claimed that his comic influences include Arthur Askey, Ted Ray, Robb Wilton, and Tommy Handley. He intersperses the comedy with occasional songs, both serious and humorous, in a light baritone voice.

Dodd has had many recording hits, charting on nineteen occasions in the UK Top 40, including his first single Love Is Like a Violin (1960), produced on Decca Records by Alex Wharton, which charted at number 8 (UK), and his song Tears, which topped the UK charts for five weeks in 1965, selling over two million copies. This remains one of the UK's biggest selling singles of all time.

Dodd is renowned for the length of his shows, and during the 1960s he earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest ever joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours (7.14 jokes per minute), undertaken at a Liverpool theatre, where audiences were observed to enter the show in shifts. More recently, Ken Dodd appeared at the Royal Variety Performance in 2006 in front of Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, where he reprised some of his famous jokes, including those about tax accountants as well as singing his famous song "Happiness".

He is slated to make an appearance in BBC's Eastenders in August 2008 as a former landlord of the Queen Vic returning to collect some hidden money.

Personal life

Ken Dodd was born on the 8 November 1927 in Knotty Ash Liverpool, son of a coal merchant, Arthur Dodd and wife Sarah Dodd. He went to the Knotty Ash School, and sang in the local church choir of St Johns Church, Knotty Ash. At the age of seven, he was dared by his school friends to ride his bike with his eyes shut.....and he did, for about ten feet and the bicycle hit the curb. Ken went flying open-mouthed onto the tarmac, resulting in his famous teeth of today.

He then attended Holt High, a Grammar School in Childwall, but left at age fourteen to work for his father. Around this time he became interested in showbusiness after seeing an advert in a comic entitled; "Fool Your Teachers, Amaze Your Friends - Send 6d in Stamps and Become a Ventriloquist!" and sending off for the book. Not long after, his father bought him a ventriloquist's dummy and Ken called it Charlie Brown. He started entertaining at the local orphanage, then at various other local community functions.

He got his big break at age twenty-six when, in September 1954, when he made his professional showbusiness début at the now-demolished Nottingham Empire. A nervous young man, he sat in a local Milk Bar for most of the afternoon going over and over his lines before going to the theatre. Although he cannot remember much of the actual act of that night, he did recall, "Well at least they didn't boo me off"; but there was not much fear of that, as Dodd's act went from strength to strength, eventually topping the bill at Blackpool in 1958.

Tax evasion court case

Ken Dodd's personal life has not been without incident. He was charged with tax evasion in 1989. The subsequent trial led to several revelations. This included details about the Diddy Men, who had appeared in his stage act, often played by local children from stage schools, who were revealed to have never been paid. Dodd was also revealed to have very little money in his bank account, having £336,000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his attic. When asked by the judge, "What does a hundred thousand pounds in a suitcase feel like?", Dodd made his now famous reply, "The notes are very light, M'Lord."

Dodd was represented by George Carman, who in court famously quipped, "Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants". The trial lasted nearly three months: Dodd was acquitted.

Despite the strain of the trial, Dodd immediately capitalized on his new-found notoriety with a successful season running from Easter to Christmas 1990 at the London Palladium. It was there he had previously broken the house record for the longest comedy season at the theatre, in 1965, with a residency lasting forty-two weeks. Some of his current material mocks the trial and tax in general. For a while he introduced his act with the words, "Good evening, my name is Kenneth Arthur Dodd; singer, photographic playboy and failed accountant!"

Ken Dodd has had two long-time fiancées, but has never married. A stalker, Ruth Tagg, who harassed Dodd and his girlfriend Anne Jones, sending threatening letters and a dead rat, attempted to burn down his house by pushing burning rags through the letterbox, in October 2001. Tagg pleaded guilty to harassment and arson at Preston Crown Court.

He underwent a hernia operation at Christmas 2007, forcing him to cancel several shows, but was back on stage within a month, to the delight of his fans. Ken will present The History of Liverpool Comedians (excluding Jimmy Tarbuck) at St George's Hall on 1 and 2 April 2008.


More recently, the focus has been on Ken Dodd's continuing legacy as one of the UK's finest comedy performers. In December 2004, Dodd was in Nottingham to be presented with a framed playbill after a sell out performance at the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham to celebrate his fifty years in show business. Dodd's first professional performance was on stage at the Empire Theatre, Nottingham in 1954.

Dodd is the last of the music hall comics, and is well regarded by his comedy peers. In a 2005 poll of comedians and comedy insiders to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the 'Top 50 Comedy Acts Ever', ranked as number 36. Dodd is also famed for his meticulous recording of every performance, cross-referencing the place he was performing, the jokes he has used, and the reception they received, so as to hone his act to near-perfection for each audience. He once was said to have commented that first house on a Glasgow Friday night was the hardest audience in the UK. Ken Dodd is also famed for extending his shows by several hours. For example a show starting at 7pm, will normally finish around midnight with theatre staff getting increasingly desperate to get home.It is perhaps the greatest tribute to how much Ken Dodd is loved and appreciated by his audiences,that there are rarely any complaints from them about the shows running on so late.

UK chart singles

  • "Love Is Like A Violin" (1960)
  • "Once In Every Lifetime" (1961)
  • "Pianissimo" (1962)
  • "Still" (1963)
  • "Eight By Ten" (1964)
  • "Happiness" (1964)
  • "So Deep Is The Night" (1964)
  • "Tears" (1965, number 1 hit and sold over a million copies, and is in the top 20 of the most sold songs in the UK)
  • "The River (Le Colline Sono In Fiore)" (1965)
  • "Where's Me Shirt"
  • "Promises" (1966)
  • "More Than Love" (1966)
  • "It's Love" (1966)
  • "Let Me Cry On Your Shoulder" (1967)
  • "Tears Won't Wash Away These Heartaches" (1969)
  • "Brokenhearted" (1970)
  • "When Love Comes Round Again (L'arca di Noe)" (1971)
  • "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)" (1972)
  • "(Think Of Me) Wherever You Are" (1975)
  • "You're My Best Friend" (1980)
  • "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" (1980)
  • "It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)" (1980)
  • "Hold My Hand" (1981)

Ken Dodd: The Biography by Stephen Griffin was published on 15 September, 2005 (ISBN 1-84317-123-6). Ken Dodd Discography


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