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Ken Dodd remembered

Posted by Simon Parke, 13 March 2018, 11.02am

Ken Dodd was very funny.

He must have been – he was idolised in Liverpool despite being a campaigning Tory.

He was, as Alan Davies said, a ‘relentless gagster’, who, with an audience before him, just couldn’t stop.

He really couldn’t.

His ability play ‘live’ for four hours or more, 360 jokes an hour - a phenomenal comic memory - was the stuff of legend; and also some irritation, for those who missed the last bus home.

The theatre staff left; Ken Dodd carried on - a wordsmith of the ‘suasage-knotter’ variety, who just wanted to make people laugh.

But it had to be a particular sort of laughter.

He didn’t like satire, it wasn’t his thing. He could see Chaplin was a genius, but didn’t warm to his assaults on bullies and authority.

He preferred Laurel and Hardy who only assaulted themselves.

‘Innocent laughter is the sound angels make,’ said the overtly religious Ken.

But laughter also needed to be studied. He’d have someone, usually his partner, timing the laughter backstage. If the laugh wasn’t long enough, the joke would be axed.

And on tour, he studied regional comedy, because what works wonderfully in Workington may leave Leicester limp

Wigan doesn’t like sex in its jokes, apparently – though plumbing and vulgarity are fine; whereas Brighton can’t get enough spice.

‘I’m not married really, I’ve always been round-shouldered ,’ was dropped after it died in Blackpool.

And in Glasgow, you must never tell a football joke, not even a good one, on Friday or Saturday.

Ken Dodd liked happiness; he turned down anything which might be a little downbeat.

Here was a boy, and then a man, who existed to please others. It was how he made his way in the world, even when he was a detergent seller.

Give him an audience, and you had to peel him away from the attention..

Here also was a man compelled to avoid sadness, which probably had its own story; while his difficult relationship to tax revealed a boy with survival fears.

But an endlessly inventive gagster, a joyful gagster, who drew so many - almost against their better judgement - into his happy circle.

The tickling stick – really!? Yet it worked, and it blessed, as Ken has done.

So thank you, Ken.

And as tributes pour in, and favourite gags recalled, I close with Rob Newman’s favourite Ken Dodd joke, and one of my own.

‘I knew there’d be war because I drove past Vera Lynn’s house and heard gargling.’

Wonderful…funny, and, dare I say it, a little bit sad.

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