My Life: Ken Dodd

Ken DoddKen Dodd
Ken Dodd
Ken Dodd has not stopped entertaining since he turned professional in 1954, and today continues to pack theatres over the length and breadth of the UK.

And after more than 50 years as a top entertainer, and aged 85, he still loves nothing better than making audiences laugh.

“Laughter is the greatest music in the world, and people come to my shows wanting to be entertained and to escape the cares and worries of everyday life for a couple of hours.

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“They certainly don’t want to be embarrassed or insulted with below-the-belt humour. They want to laugh and have a good night out – and so do I, which is probably why it works.”

Doddy, as he’s affectionately known to generations of fans, grew up influenced by some of the country’s top comedians, and is no lover of today’s TV talent shows.

“I was fortunate to have grown up with comedy heroes like Arthur Askey, Ted Ray, Robb Wilton, Tommy Handley, Billy Bennett and the great comics of that era.

“They were followed by the likes of Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise. All were legendary funnymen with natural ability and lots of warmth. Comedy should never be over-analysed. It is either funny or it isn’t. I cannot bear shows like Britain’s Got Talent which ridicule people.”

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Dodd still lives in the house in which he was born – a rambling 17th century Georgian farmhouse – in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, and it is filled with happy memories.

“I couldn’t live anywhere else”, he says. “I was lucky to have had an idyllic upbringing filled with love and happiness. As a family we went to the theatre regularly, and I was one of those lads who was always digging holes and falling into them, or climbing trees and falling out of them.

“Me, my brother Billy and sister June loved going to the theatre with mum and dad. The variety shows were our favourites – especially the annual pantomimes.

“That’s when I became stage-struck. I’ll never forget the year when mum and dad bought me my own ventriloquist’s doll. It was magical. I christened him ‘Charlie Brown’, learned how to throw my voice, and started doing impromptu shows for all my pals.”

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Despite this grounding, Ken was a comparative late starter in entertainment. He and brother Billy helped his father, Arthur, in the family coal business. Then Ken worked semi-professional to supplement his earnings as a door-to-door salesman “on the knocker” in Merseyside.

He had his own van and sold household goods around the local housing estates, but he also entertained part-time and his reputation as a comedian was growing all the time.

Eventually he turned professional in 1954 and made his stage debut at the old Nottingham Empire.

Just a little over 10 years later, and without the back-up of TV exposure, he made his debut at the famous London Palladium – where he enjoyed an unprecedented record breaking 42-week sell-out season.

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He did another sell-out Palladium season in the early 1990s, and last October he starred in A Celebration of Laughter With Ken Dodd & Friends – from which proceeds went to the Entertainment Artistes’ Benevolent Fund.

Creator of the legendary Diddymen, he was awarded the OBE for his services to show business and charity.

The greatest gift that I possess

Away from his hectic touring schedule, Ken Dodd became the first recipient of the prestigious Living Legend award from The British Comedy Society. He has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the British Comedy Awards and has been voted The 
Greatest Merseysider 
of all time.

Ken Dodd and his Happiness Show will be at the Grand Opera House, York, on July 7

For tickets visit

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