Interview with Ken Dodd

On 26th May comedian Tim Vine will pay a visit to York to unveil a plaque at The Grand Opera House. The plaque will celebrate and remember Sir Ken Dodd OBE, who passed away earlier this year, and who performed at the theatre many times since the 1960s. Just prior to his final show at the theatre, in July 2016, Howard called Ken for a chat (as you do) and found out more about the comedy legend.

We publish this now as a memorial to Ken.

 

Howard: Hello? Ken Dodd?

Ken: I think I am. If not, I’m wearing his underwear! Right, what’s your name and your prison number?

H: I’m Howard from Your Local Link magazine in York. No number I’m afraid.

K: Ah yes! Because I’m during a Yorkshire tour of sorts of my Happiness Show there.

H: Yes, that’s why I’m calling.

K: Good. Because I’m playing a the Grand Opera House. If it’s not flooded, that is.

H: We’re all clear here. You are a go!

K: What a relief. I must say, I do love to play to audiences in Yorkshire and the north. There’s a big difference between them and those in the south. When I first started in… oh… 1954 it was, I used to make a notebook of how I did and how the jokes went down across the country. I still do it today; I’ve stacks of bloomin’ notebooks, and I have to say that Yorkshire folk are top of the list for humour appreciation. The north has real objectiveness, whereas down south it’s all very subjective.

H: That’s nice of you to say. So where are you living now?

K: I’m still in Knotty Ash, about four miles east of Liverpool – on the Yorkshire side.

H: I must admit to always thinking Knotty Ash was a fictional place, and that you just made it up.

K: Nay! It is a s real, and as beautiful, as I am. But hey, what has been done to stop the floods coming back? Poor journalists in York like you could get washed away, you know.

H: They could! I’m not sure what is being done, but the Grand Opera House is definitely clear. Smells nice again, so you’ll be okay in your dressing room.

K: Good, good. Now, there are three questions that journalists always ask me. Would you like to know what they are?

H: Sure, go on then, tell me what questions I’m about to ask.

K: They are: First, when are you going to retire? And I’m not. I’m never going to hang up my tickling stick. In showbiz I’m what they call ‘stage-drunk’. I love slaving over a hot audience.

The second question is: where is you favourite place to perform? I’ll let you ask me that. And the third is: what do you think of the younger comedians these days? Right, take your pick. I’m at your service.

H: Well, I’m going to hijack you here with a different question. I wanted to ask you about York. You’ve played here before?

K: Oh yes, I’ve played at the Opera House loads; that’s my favourite. But I’ve also played at the posh one… what is it… the Theatre Royal! Always loved my time in York, so looking forward to going back.

H: But I’m guessing your real love is for Liverpool.

K: Well Liverpool is a very unique place. We have a peculiar sense of humour, and I think it’s because the city has always been a huge draw for lots of different people from across the world. Each group brought their own religions and beliefs and cultures, but they also brought their own sense of humour.

H: Was that your inspiration to be a comedian; being exposed to so many different cultures and senses of humour?

K: Kind of. But, I’ll be honest, I was a very intellectual child, you know, and I used to read The Wizard comic. On the back page they had a big advertisement for a company in London called Ellerston’s who sold stink bombs, itching powder, that kind of stuff. One day I saw an advert that read: “Impress you friends, fools your teachers… become a ventriloquist!” So I sent off for this dummy and that’s how I started. But growing up I loved Arthur Askey, then later I enjoyed Frankie Howerd; they were both great influences.

H: Frankie Howerd was from York, you know.

K: Was he? Well, there you go. It’s fate.

H: Here’s another question you weren’t expecting me to ask: What form does The Ken Dodd Happiness Show take?

K: It’s variety; good old variety These people I’m bringing with me have really polished their acts for a long time to perfect them. There’ll be live musicians as well. One guy is called Andy Eastwood – cousin of Clint, you know? He’s a very talented musician and plays pretty much any instrument you can name. There will also be Sybie Jones on piano and singing.

H: Right, I had no idea there was other people involved. Do you compère between all the sets?

K: No, we have an off-stage announcer for that. I try to make people laugh for a bit, then we have some music and singing, and then – star of stars – is Dicky Mint himself.

Dicky: Hello!

H: Erm. Hello.

K: Oh, and I don’t do ‘sets’, I do a turn!

H: Sorry to be predictable, but that leads nicely into the question of what you think about modern comedians?

K: It does. What a professional you are. I think some of them are very clever indeed… just not very funny. To be funny you have to have a comic imp inside you that incites you to say funny things. You need that imp in you. Some people do. I think Joe Pasquale has it – he’s a very funny man. And there is another chap from the north-east, and he’s mad; Ross Noble. I think variety will always be there, even with these new guys up and coming. My job is to go on stage and make people happy; not embarrassed or uncomfortable. Speaking of which, come to the show, Howard, and I’ll meet you afterwards and give you your own tickle stick!

H: What an offer! Cheers Ken, good luck with the show!

K: Thanks, bye!

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