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.
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!