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Dodd, Ken (1927-)

Comedian, Presenter

Main image of Dodd, Ken (1927-)

Ken Dodd is an enduring comedian whose unkempt shock of hair, buck teeth and trademark tickling stick combined with a endless supply of jokes have made him one of Britain's most distinctive entertainers.

He was born on the 8th November 1927, in a village on the outskirts of Liverpool called Knotty Ash, which he later would make famous via the Diddymen. He began his career as a ventriloquist when his parents bought him a dummy. He performed on the club circuit under the guise of Professor Yaffle Chuckabutty. Operatic Tenor and Sausage-Knotter but kept his day job as a door-to-door salesman.

In 1954, he made his first professional appearance at the Nottingham Playhouse. In March the following year he made his television debut on the BBC's nostalgic music hall show The Good Old Days. The Ken Dodd Show (BBC, 1959) was the first of many stand-up sketch shows which appeared over the next 25 years. They reflected Dodd's trademark phrases such as "tatty-bye", "tattifilarious" and "plumpshious".

In 1965 he made his London Palladium debut, where he enjoyed a record breaking 42-week sell-out season, during which he got into the Guinness Book of Records by telling 1,500 jokes during a three and a half hour performance. He also proved an accomplished singer, with a string of hits. He reached No 1 in 1965 with his ballad 'Tears', but is possibly best remembered for his chirpy theme tune 'Happiness'. Doddy's Music Box (ITV, 1968) combined mirth with pop music to reflect both sides of his 1960s career.

The Diddymen had appeared in sketches in Dodd's shows and their popularity led to a children's series called Ken Dodd and the Diddymen (BBC, 1969). Dodd provided voices for characters such as Dicky Mint and Nigel Ponsonby-Smallpiece, brought to life by Roger Stevenson's puppets.

Dodd also branched out into Shakespeare, playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night at The Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool in 1971. Much later, his unexpected big-screen debut in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (US/UK, 1996) saw him play Yorick, an uncharacteristically silent part.

He was awarded the OBE in 1982 for his services to show business and charity. In 1989 Dodd became embroiled in a tax-dodging case which thrust him back into the spotlight. However, his slot on A Night of Comic Relief 2 (BBC, tx. 10/3/1989) showed that he had lost none of his zany humour.

The 1990s saw Dodd mainly in reflective mood, starting with An Audience With Ken Dodd (ITV, tx. 3/12/1994) which marked his 40 years in show business. This was followed by a revealing Face to Face interview (BBC, tx. 13/3/1995), and an edition of Heroes of Comedy (Channel 4, tx. 2/10/1999) saw him discussing the comedian's craft.

In 2002 he starred in Another Audience With Ken Dodd (ITV, tx. 9/2/2002) and the following year received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the British Comedy Awards. He remains a regular live attraction: on the eve of his ninth decade, he was headlining the Ken Dodd Happiness Tour.

Eddie Dyja

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