Ken Dodd is celebrating his 60th anniversary year of happiness and laughter with two local dates next month.
He became a professional entertainer in 1954 and just a little over 10 years later he made his debut at the famous London Palladium – where he enjoyed an unprecedented record breaking 42-week sell-out season!
In 1965 he replaced his fellow Merseysiders The Beatles from No.1 spot in the pop charts with Tears – a song that still lies in 10th position in the best-selling records of all time.
His string of hits includes Love Is Like A Violin and his signature tune ‘Happiness’ and unsurprisingly, singing plays a prominent part in his stage act.
His vocal range includes everything from the classics to pop music and even grand opera!
He’s been a bill-topper his entire career and has starred in countless Royal Variety Shows (the most recent in the presence of HM The Queen and The Duke Of Edinburgh) and in sell-out record-breaking seasons at theatres like the London Palladium and Blackpool Opera House.
There is a statue of him in Liverpool Lime Street Station and his wax figure is in Madam Tussauds in Blackpool.
But surely, after his constant touring (he clocks up a staggering 100,000 miles every year) he must occasionally think about hanging up his famous tickling sticks?
“How dare you!! he says in mock indignation.
“I’ve never even thought about retirement.
“Why should I when I love every second of doing my job?
“Anyway, it’s not really a job. I’ve been doing it for 60 years now and it’s more like a hobby, because I love it so much.
“I’m very lucky to be doing what I want to do – and being paid for it at the same time!
“There have been lots of changes in lifestyle over the years, but one thing remains the same – audiences still go to a theatre wanting to be entertained.
“They come to my shows in search of happiness and that’s what I try to give them, with humour aimed at all the family.
“Age is no barrier: young, old, male, female. They all want a good old-fashioned laugh.
“When I go on stage I’m talking to people as individuals, not one great mass.
“You have to relate to every single person in an audience.
“You play them like you would play a violin or a piano. Collectively an audience is big and challenging, but you must never lose sight of the fact that it is made up of individuals”.
After his shows Ken returns home to Knotty Ash in the early hours, and tends to watch satellite and cable channels – especially those screening American comedy shows and specialist channels like the Discovery and History channels.
He also loves holidays (“exploring capital cities is a wonderful way of unwinding”) loves reading (at the last count he had some 40,000 books), gardening and simply relaxing.
“I’m lucky because I never get tired of entertaining and making people laugh” he concludes.
“Well, I do sometimes, but it doesn’t last for long!
“I think I’ve only had one day off in my entire career – and that was for suspected pneumonia.
“I was back on stage the next night with a mustard patch on my chest.
“The doctor insisted that I wore it, but all the stage hands kept rubbing their ham sandwiches on it, so it had to go!!
“As long as people keep paying me the privilege of coming to my shows and laughing their heads off, then I will continue touring this great country of ours. It’s my love. It’s my life and I enjoy every single minute of it.
“And, by jove, they can’t touch you for it!”
And who does the man who billled himself ‘Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty – Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter rate as comics.
“I suppose you could say that I have been spoiled”, he says. “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 & 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. There is a subtle difference between those who say funny things and those who say things funny.”
So, how does he think the comedy of today differs from that of yesterday?
“There was more ‘art’ to comedy years ago,” he explains.
“Comics were masters of their craft.
“Today there are precious few places to learn that craft, and far too much emphasis is placed on tasteless material and sadly swearing is all too often being passed off as ‘comedy’.”
Ken Dodd is celebrating his 60th year as a professional entertainer and brings his Happiness Show to King George’s Hall, Blackburn, on May 3 and Southport Theatre on May 24. And he’s still up for it...