Book review: Les Dawson’s Joke Book by Compiled by Tracy and Charlotte Dawson

He was a comic genius ... Les Dawson, the knave who stole our hearts and became the king of jokers in a prize pack of Lancashire comedians.

It might be nearly 20 years since he died but funny man Les lives on in our memories and now we can laugh again at his sparkling humour in a joke book lovingly compiled by his widow Tracy and the couple’s 20-year-old daughter Charlotte.

From his working class roots in the Collyhurst area of Manchester to an entertainer beloved by millions, Les was a man for all comedy seasons and this is the first book to collect together the best of his stand-ups and comic routines.

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The jokes reproduced here represent the highlights of his 26-year career across radio and television, from his early days on Opportunity Knocks to his ‘Cissie and Ada’ drag double act with Preston-born comic actor Roy Barraclough.

Every classic joke gets a re-telling from the irreverent ʻtake my mother-in-lawʼ gags to cheeky limericks, sketches and his famous ʻI said to the wifeʼ and ʻI wouldnʼt sayʼ one-liners.

There are old favourites that can still make us roar with laughter. ‘The mother-in-law took the father-in-law to a psychiatrist. She said, ‘There’s something wrong with him, he never hears a word I say.’ The psychiatrist said, ‘That’s not an affliction – it’s a bl**dy gift.’

And self-effacing gems like ‘When I was a child I had wax in my ears. Dad didn’t take me to the doctor, he used me as a night light.’

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Writing, reveals Tracy in her introduction, was one of the great joys of Les’s life. ‘He would spend hours in his study composing new gags, honing old ones and putting together new material for all his shows,’ she says.

In fact, Les, who lived with Tracy in St Annes in the years before his death aged 62 in 1993, once made her promise to make sure that people knew he was a writer as well as a comedian. A lover of language, he was a secret poet and was fond of high culture, often undercutting his own admiration of the art forms for comic effect.

And the evidence is here for all to see ...exclusive hand-written extracts from his personal journals which provide a touching insight into the hard work, dedication and passion that went into his performances.

Full of warmth, fun and laughter, just like the man himself, this book is a must-have for any fan of Les Dawson and the perfect gift for joke lovers young and old.

(Michael O’Mara Books, hardback, £9.99)