Ken Dodd

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Ken Dodd
Ken dodd december 2007.jpg
Dodd in December 2007
Birth name Kenneth Arthur Dodd
Born (1927-11-08) 8 November 1927 (age 89)
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Medium Stand-up, television
Nationality British
Years active 1954-present
Genres One-liners
Influences Arthur Askey
Ted Ray
Robb Wilton
Tommy Handley
Max Miller
Will Hay
Influenced Joe Pasquale
Harry Hill
Peter Kay
Jason Byrne

Kenneth Arthur "Ken" Dodd, OBE (born 8 November 1927) is an English comedian, singer-songwriter and actor, identified by his trademark unruly hair and protruding teeth, his red, white and blue "tickling stick" and his famous, upbeat greeting of "How tickled I am!". He also created the world and characters of the Diddy Men, with 'diddy' being Liverpudlian slang for small.

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. In the 1960s his fame in the UK was such that he rivalled The Beatles as a household name, with his recording of "Tears" being the UK's third-best-selling single of the 1960s. His records have sold millions worldwide.[1] As of 2016 he continues to tour with his comedy and music show.

Early life[edit]

Dodd was born on 8 November 1927 in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, Lancashire, the son of a coal merchant, Arthur Dodd, and wife Sarah (née Gray). He had an older brother, William (1925–2011) and a younger sister. He went to the Knotty Ash School, and sang in the local church choir of St John's Church, Knotty Ash. At the age of seven, he was dared by his school friends to ride his bike with his eyes shut. He accepted the dare, crashed and received facial injuries which resulted in his distinctive buck teeth.[citation needed]

He then attended Holt High School, a grammar school in Childwall, but left at age fourteen to work for his father.[2] Around this time he became interested in showbusiness after seeing an advert in a comic: "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, he made his professional show-business debut at the now-demolished Nottingham Empire.[3] 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. He later said, "Well at least they didn't boo me off". He continued to perform, and in 1955 he appeared at Blackpool, where, in the following year, he had a part in "Let's Have Fun". His performance at the Central Pier was part of a comedy revue with Jimmy James and Company. Also on the same bill were Jimmy Clitheroe and Roy Castle.[4] Eventually, Ken Dodd gained top billing at Blackpool in 1958. He has guested on innumerable television and radio shows and made many appearances on BBC TV's long running programme, The Good Old Days.

Style, career and achievement[edit]

Dodd with his "tickling sticks"

Dodd's stand-up comedy style is fast and relies on the rapid delivery of one-liner jokes. He has claimed that his comic influences include other Liverpool comedians like Arthur Askey, Robb Wilton, Tommy Handley and the "cheeky chappy" from Brighton, Max Miller.[5] He intersperses the comedy with occasional songs, both serious and humorous, in an incongruously fine 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" (Columbia), which topped the UK charts for five weeks in 1965, selling over a million copies. At the time it was the UK's biggest selling single by a solo artist,[6] and remains one of the UK's biggest selling singles of all time. Dodd was selected to perform the song on A Jubilee Of Music on BBC One on 31 December 1976, a celebration of the key pop successes of Queen Elizabeth II's first twenty-five years as Britain's monarch.

Dodd is renowned for the length of his performances, 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. In 2006, Ken Dodd appeared at the Royal Variety Performance in front of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, where he reprised some of his famous jokes, including those about tax accountants as well as singing his famous song "Happiness".

In October 1987, Dodd officially opened Accrington Arndale Centre, displaying thirty shop units situated along three transparent dome malls.[7]

He continues to tour and, despite his age, his shows still frequently do not finish until after midnight. In 2012 at the age of 84, he played the Princes Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex on 7 July. Starting at 7.15pm he continued until just before 9.00pm when Sybie Jones took to the stage. Returning at 9.30pm he continued until 10.00pm. The second support act performed until Dodd's return just before 11.00pm when he continued until 00.25am. As of 2016 Dodd continues to tour extensively.[8]

Dodd's original television programmes include The Ken Dodd Laughter Show on ITV.


The statue of Dodd at Lime Street railway station

He was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982 for services to show business and charity.

Dodd became one of the rare entertainers to be given a second show of An Audience with... which he did in Another audience with Ken Dodd in 2002.

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.

In a 2005 poll of comedians and comedy insiders to find the 'Comedians' Comedian', Dodd was voted amongst the 'Top 50 Comedy Acts Ever', ranked as number 36. He was made an honorary fellow of Liverpool John Moores University in 1997. A statue depicting Dodd with his feather duster was unveiled in Lime Street Station, Liverpool on 11 June 2009.

Dodd was made an honorary fellow of the University of Chester on 4 November 2009, having been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at a graduation ceremony in Chester Cathedral. His doctorate was presented by Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster. He was awarded a Doctorate of Letters at Liverpool Hope University on 25 January 2010 during the university's Foundation Day celebrations.

Personal life[edit]

Dodd has had two long-term fiancées, but has never married. A stalker, Ruth Tagg, who harassed Dodd and his girlfriend Anne Jones (who is also a current support act, named 'Sybie' 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.[9]

He underwent a hernia operation in late 2007, forcing him to cancel a performance, something he has only ever otherwise done twice, due to bereavement[citation needed], but he was back on stage within a month. Dodd presented the History of Liverpool Comedians at St George's Hall on 1 and 2 April 2008.[citation needed]

Ken Dodd: The Biography by Stephen Griffin was published on 15 September 2005 (ISBN 1-84317-123-6). His own book, Look At It My Way, was published in November 2009. In July 2010, the regional UK airline Eastern Airways named one of their Jetstream 41 aircraft after Dodd, in celebration of one year of scheduled services to Liverpool, and the support that Dodd shows for the region and in particular the airport.


UK chart singles[edit]

Title Release date Chart Positions Notes
U.K. Singles[10]
"Love Is Like a Violin" 7 July 1960 8
"Once in Every Lifetime" 15 June 1961 28
"Pianissimo" 1 February 1962 21
"Still" 29 August 1963 35
"Eight by Ten" 6 February 1964 22
"Happiness" 23 July 1964 31
"So Deep Is the Night" 26 November 1964 31
"Tears" 2 September 1965 1 Sold over a 1.5 million copies;
33rd best-selling single of all time in the UK
"The River (Le Colline Sono In Fiore)" 18 November 1965 3 (Angiolini, Shuman) with Geoff Love and his Orchestra
"Promises" 12 May 1966 6
"More Than Love" 4 August 1966 14
"It's Love" 27 October 1966 36
"Let Me Cry on Your Shoulder" 19 January 1967 11
"Tears Won't Wash Away These Heartaches" 30 July 1969 22
"Brokenhearted" 5 December 1970 15
"When Love Comes Round Again (L'arca di Noe)" 10 July 1971 19
"Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)" 18 November 1972 29
"(Think of Me) Wherever You Are" 29 November 1975 21
"Hold My Hand" 26 December 1981 44

Other singles[edit]

  • "Where's Me Shirt?" (1965)
  • "The Same Mistakes / Call Me Mister Sunshine" (1967)
  • "You're My Best Friend" (1980)
  • "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" (1980)
  • "It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)" (1980)

Tax evasion court case[edit]

In 1989 Dodd was charged with tax evasion. The subsequent trial, with the prosecution case led by Brian Leveson QC, produced several revelations. The Diddy Men, who had appeared in his stage act, were often played by local children from stage schools, and were revealed never to have 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."[11]

Dodd was represented by George Carman, who in court famously quipped, "Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants".[12] The trial lasted three weeks: Dodd was acquitted.[12]

Despite the strain of the trial, Dodd immediately capitalised 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!"[13]


  1. ^ "BBC Radio 2 - Ken Dodd: How Tickled I've Been". 2013-01-01. Retrieved 2014-07-25. 
  2. ^ "The Ken Dodd Story". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  3. ^ "Ken Dodd: Twenty things you never knew". BBC Online. 6 July 2005. Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. 
  4. ^ Theatre Programme, Central Pier, Blackpool, 1956. Cyril Critchlow Collection, Blackpool Central Library, Vol. 38 p. 12.
  5. ^ "The men who tickled me...". 2 April 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008. 
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 170. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  7. ^ "Town centre revolution". 5 December 2002. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Stalker set fire to Dodd's home". BBC. 4 March 2003. 
  10. ^ "Ken Dodd". The Official Charts. The Official UK Charts Co. c. 2010. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  11. ^ Natalie Anglesey (1 February 2007). "Dodd's Bolton bonus". Manchester Evening News. 
  12. ^ a b "George Carman: The Bar's 'silver fox'". BBC. 2 January 2001. 
  13. ^ Nevin, Charles (23 October 2004). "Tickling shtick". London: Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 

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