Face to Face: Ken Dodd The Late Show


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Face to Face: Ken Dodd

First transmitted in 1995, a special edition of The Late Show sees comedian Ken Dodd talking to Jeremy Isaacs about his career and unique approach to comedy.


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BBC Four Collections.

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Specially chosen programmes from the BBC archive.

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For this collection, Sir Michael Parkinson has selected

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BBC interviews with influential figures of the 20th century.

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More programmes on this theme and other BBC Four Collections

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are available on BBC iPlayer.

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WOLF HOWLS

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Ken Dodd, you're one of Britain's best-loved comedians.

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Some would insist that you're our greatest stand-up comic.

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What do you feel just before you go on stage?

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Er...very, very excited.

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Very, er... It's very thrilling.

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It's, er, a bit frightening, a little bit, er, little bit scary.

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Depending on the, er, the occasion, but very...

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Looking forward to it - I'm completely stage-struck.

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I just...just want to get on there and, er...

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Is it as terrifying as it used to be?

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Not quite, no.

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At one time I used to be terrified all the time.

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Now I'm just frightened some of the time.

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What's the first thing that you have to do to win over an audience?

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The first... I think the first...

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Ooh, the first 30 seconds is the most important part of the act.

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You, er, you have to get through to the audience right away.

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I think actors call it establishing a rapport.

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Gracie Fields used to say it was a silver thread went from the performer

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to the audience, and I call it building a bridge -

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you build a bridge between yourself and the audience.

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You try to make friends with them, you try to say, "Here I am, folks.

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"I'm harmless. I'm just going to tickle you,

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"tickle your minds and, er, try to make you laugh."

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Does it take longer to warm some audiences up than others?

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Depending on the... It's nothing to do with geography.

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It's nothing to do with where in the country, it's to do with the...

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And it's nothing to do with the...

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Sometimes it's to do with the weather.

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It's quite, er...funny sometimes, when you're playing a big theatre,

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like the Blackpool Opera House,

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and, er...and it's been raining during the day

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and you can actually see steam rising from the audience,

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like a little cloud above them.

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But some audiences, er... Some audiences are harder,

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if you like, than others - sometimes for no reason at all.

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I did two shows in the Southeast just last week -

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Canterbury and Gravesend.

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One was... One was absolutely uproarious,

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and the other just took a little bit more time to work on.

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And so you have to try just a little bit harder and, er,

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remember your timing and remember...

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Just... Just gauge when to, er, go for the laugh.

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A bit like, er... A bit like, er...

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A bit like a bullfighter, actually!

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Is it a wooing process of the audience...

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- Yes. - ..or is it an assault on them?

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Oh, no, no. It's very much a wooing.

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It looks like an assault.

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You start off with the quite... quite loud and...

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as you would, you go in with all guns firing

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and you go in with a lot of, er,

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a lot of facial expression and arm movements.

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Most of this is instinctive.

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It's not, er... You're just trying very, very hard.

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Maybe I'm trying too hard.

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And then you... As you feel the audience...

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An audience... No two audiences are alike.

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I've been 40 years in show business

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and obviously I've never done the same show twice.

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Because every audience is different -

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a different permutation of personalities.

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And you can see where the audience is quiet, where the audience are,

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you know, quite lively, so you have to coax these people

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and just keep this lot... keep them on the boil.

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Are you trying to control them?

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Yes. Yes, very much. It's, er... You're part...

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You're part-comedian, part-actor and part-orator.

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And what are you trying to do by controlling them?

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Try to, er... Try to give them a laugh.

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I always say you can't make anybody laugh, but you can give people...

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Laughter is inside everybody.

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Everybody has this laughter inside them.

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It's just waiting for you to try and just release it.

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So, you just have to coax them and sometimes you have to be,

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er...very, very well-mannered and other times, you can be quite cheeky

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and be a bit, you know, a bit hard-faced

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and, er, chide them a little bit.

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You're only... It's all... It's all done joshing, it's all mock.

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You go on quite a long time, sometimes, don't you?

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I do have a reputation of running a few seconds over, yes.

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This is because I...

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I love it so much and I love... making an audience laugh,

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giving an audience laughter, hearing...hearing laughter.

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Laughter is the most beautiful sound in the world,

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and when you've really got them... you've really got them rolling,

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it's a shame, really, to break up the party, but we don't go on...

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All audiences, they love to feel

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they're getting that little bit extra. It's, er...

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I think in an age when everything is sort of pre-packaged

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and you know exactly what you should be getting, it's nice to...

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It's nice to get a little, er...

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In the old days, you know, when they used to sell a loaf, there used to be

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a little knob on the top, and so,

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up north, they used to call it the jockey on the loaf.

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And it was a little bit extra. A baker's dozen, er...

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I like to give them a little bit extra,

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and they appreciate... the audience appreciate it.

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How long can you go on?

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Oh. Ah. Well, that's...

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I once did a marathon, er, for a charitable...for a charity,

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and I think we went just on about four hours.

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But is it a sort of macho thing, saying, "I can go on and on and on"?

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- No. - No?

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Oh, no. No, no.

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It's not a battle in which you're trying to...?

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Oh, no. No, no. Cos you should've...

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You should've won the battle very early on.

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If you haven't won the battle in the first five minutes...

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But I've heard you say, "I've beaten you," you know, "You're giving in."

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Oh, that's a gag. That's a gag. "Give in" is a gag.

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Give in, it means... It's like little boys say to give in.

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They all shout, "No!"

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I say, "Well, you better had - I'll give you a Chinese burn."

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You know, Chi... You know, with the wrist.

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You sometimes go very quickly.

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Yes, yes.

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I try to get as, er, as many laughs as I can in the time available.

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Er, I do mostly one-liners, mostly patter, er,

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and...one or two - not very many - joke stories.

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And even the joke stories have got one-liners in them.

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We try to work on about...well, if we can get seven laughs a minute,

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we're doing...we're OK. We're motoring.

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I would think so!

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Is a pause the most difficult thing you could try to do?

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Can you ever slow down? Do you ever slow down on stage?

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Oh, yes, sometimes you have to. Sometimes you have to.

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As I say, it's very, er...

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It's very like oratory, very like acting,

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that you have to know when to...

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Before the tag line comes in, you have to know when to pause -

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that is timing. Timing is the bits in between the gags.

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How do you learn timing?

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Mostly instinct, I think,

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and mostly trial and error and practice.

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I've been practising now to be a comedian for 40 years, so, er...

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- You're still practising? - Yes. Still very much so.

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I think one of the most wonderful things in your life

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is to know that you've learnt something new.

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- You were born in Knotty Ash. - That's it.

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- Near Liverpool. - Yes.

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When were you born?

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Now, I've read different dates,

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so I'm going to ask you to tell me when you were born.

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Well, a lot of people say, you know, "How old are you?"

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And I tell everybody, "I think I'm 35."

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Yeah, but you're not!

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I think I'm 35, because I think a man is as old as he thinks he is,

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and my brain is 35, and I feel like I'm 35,

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and when I was 35, I had some marvellous times

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and my...my...my personality and my conscious life was wonderful.

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So I'm 35.

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You're not going to tell me when you were born.

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I was, er...

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If you ask...

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When you ask a comedian a question, you might get two answers -

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you'll get the comedian's answer,

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because he desperately wants to, er, impress you

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and desperately wants to make you laugh, and then you'll get the truth.

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So the comedian's answer - I was born...

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I was born at a very early age, so I should be near to my mother,

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and, er, I was born one day and...

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we were so poor the lady next door had me.

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I was a clever sort of... I was very clever. Clever baby.

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When I was six months old, I could walk.

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The bottom fell out of the pram.

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You said... The implication of that is that there are two people -

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- the comedian and the real you. - Yes, indeed, yes.

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- Is that right? - Yes, that's correct, yes.

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How different is the real you from the comic?

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Er, I think he'd like to be like the comic.

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He'd like to be, er, sort of... the hail-fellow-well-met.

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He'd like to be the laughing chap all the time, you know?

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Full of # Happiness... #, all that.

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But, of course, it isn't, because life has its trials and tribulations,

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and I do like to think seriously about certain things.

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Very seriously.

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Yeah. Now, you're not going to tell me when you were born -

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whether it was '31 or '29 or 1927,

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but you are going to tell me who your father was.

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- Yes. - Who was he?

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Arthur. Arthur Dodd.

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What did he do for a living?

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He was a coal merchant.

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What sort of person was he?

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Wonderful, marvellous.

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You say that about your dad, don't you?

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He was a very, very funny man, a loving man, a warm man.

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I had a marvellous childhood and, er, he was always...

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He would make things for us, he would make...

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He was very, very clever with his hands and making things.

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- I'm useless. - Was he a hard-working man?

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A very, very... I never saw anybody work as hard as that man.

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Well, maybe you work as hard as he did. Was he a driven man?

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He was driven because he had three children and a wife.

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And, er, times were very hard

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and he lived through the coal strike of nineteen-twenty...

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- Six. - ..six. 1926.

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He also, for a time, was a professional musician...

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during that coal strike,

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and, er...he had a wonderful sense of humour.

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He was a great clown. He had a very, very, very, very funny face.

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He could pull faces and, er, he was a lovely man.

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Having said that, I think...

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during your life and in the later part of your life,

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you realise what a complex relationship father and son are,

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and you have to, er...

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You have to...

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You learn that some of the times

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when perhaps you found life difficult -

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the relationship with your father -

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was sometimes due to some of the things

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you're now experiencing yourself.

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Sometimes, er, your health.

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Sometimes the fact you're growing older,

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sometimes that you're in the autumn of your life.

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There are many, many... There are many things you wish you...

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What were the difficulties in your relationship?

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Oh, only... Only that...

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I think every son argues with his father.

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You don't argue with your mother, you argue with your father.

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- Tell me about your mother. - She was lovely, she was wonderful.

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She was a small lady, so I tell everybody I had a mini mum.

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And she was very optimistic.

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My father was more, er...

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He was more... He insisted that you get things right,

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but my mother was very optimistic and always...

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She said to me when I first started

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being an entertainer, as a child, and...

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..whenever I would go, she would help me to pack my things together

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and she'd say...

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I remember she said to me once,

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"I don't care what you do, Kenny, as long as you wear a clean shirt."

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When you were a very small baby -

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18 months old - you were very, very ill.

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- Is that right? - Yes. Yes.

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Did that... Were you aware of that?

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You obviously weren't particularly aware of it at the time.

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Were you aware of it later on, that you'd been so ill?

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Yes, I was quite, er... Quite...quite thin,

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and, er, I've always had this sort of, the wheeze.

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And, er... But...

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But did your parents feel that there was something special about you

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because you'd survived this terrible double pneumonia as an infant?

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I think so, yes. I think so, yes, yes.

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We, the three of us - I've got an older brother, Bill,

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and a younger sister, June -

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and we all got equal shares of love and attention.

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I'm sure we did. Absolutely, we insisted on that.

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You were surrounded by love.

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- Oh, very much so, very much so. - Does a comedian,

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out there on the stage, need to be surrounded by love?

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Yes.

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Is that what wooing an audience is about?

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Yes. Yes. You're really...

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There's part of you that's still a child,

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that's asking for appreciation, asking for...

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Asking for approval, asking for love.

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There's part of you that's really asking for approval all the time,

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and the terrifying thing is the fear of rejection.

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If an audience rejects you, that's terrible, that's awful.

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So, all the time you're trying to say,

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"Please, please, please accept what I'm doing."

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Would other comedians agree with that description of what it's like?

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I don't know. I don't know.

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Er, I think so. I see behind their eyes.

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I watch other comedians.

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I love watching comedians,

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I will go anywhere to watch a comedian,

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cos every comedian has a good night and a bad night,

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and if you get them on a good night,

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it's marvellous - you feel part of them, you know,

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you're sharing their triumph.

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And on a bad night, if a comedian is, well, dying,

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you feel so sympathetic for them, you really want...

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You're willing them to do something that's going to make things right.

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So, yes, I think they are...

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Once again, I think they're asking for appreciation,

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asking for people to like them, asking for friendship,

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asking for love.

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When did you first find out you could make people laugh?

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I started...

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Oh, I was one of these little boys that used to...

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My father used to take us to variety theatres -

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well, all sorts of theatres, but mostly variety.

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He loved variety and he loved comedians

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and he used to take us every week to perhaps one

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or even two variety shows.

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And as a small boy, you know, boys watch railway trains

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and they always want to be the engine driver.

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But it always seemed to me that

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the engine driver in a show was always the comedian.

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He was the top fellow, the top of the bill, so I wanted to be a comedian.

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Well, I couldn't do it right away,

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cos I was only about seven or eight years old,

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and I used to read these books called The Wizard.

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Comics - The Wizard, The Hotspur, The Rover -

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and they were always about heroes, and I wanted to be a hero.

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I wanted to be a hero, I wanted to discover some new land.

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I wanted to be... I wanted to be...

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You wanted to be loved for being... for doing something marvellous.

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I wanted to be a hero as well! I had a lot of ambition.

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And I used to read these advertisements

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at the back of these comics,

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and one day I saw these...

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Always about a firm here in London,

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and they used to sell things like, er,

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itching powder and a Seebackroscope,

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which is thing you put in your eye

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and you can see if an assassin is creeping up behind you,

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which is very essential for a boy of eight.

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- In the playground? - Uh-huh.

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So I saw this advertisement one day and it said, "Fool your teachers,

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"amaze your friends, send 6p in stamps, become a ventriloquist."

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So I did, didn't I? Yes. See?

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And I...

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My father bought me this, er, ventriloquial figure

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and I started doing little concerts.

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My first was at an orphanage just near, er,

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Knotty Ash, where I live.

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My dad wrote the script and that was my first show at about eight,

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and then I did everything - any school concerts...

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oh, Froth-Blowers' hot pots, dockers' soirees.

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I met these people -

0:15:560:15:58

a lady called Hilda Fallon - in Liverpool,

0:15:580:16:00

who ran a concert party and I joined their troupe and I did sort of, er,

0:16:000:16:06

any kind of show we could. Any show, we'd get a show.

0:16:060:16:09

You worked as a salesman for a living at one point in your life.

0:16:090:16:13

I helped my father in his business

0:16:130:16:14

for a while with my brother Bill, and then I...

0:16:140:16:17

Once again, I wanted to be a hero, so I struck out on my own and I had

0:16:170:16:21

this sort of hardware business,

0:16:210:16:22

and I think that's where I learned...

0:16:220:16:25

Pots, polishes and lotions and stuff?

0:16:250:16:27

That sort of thing, yes.

0:16:270:16:28

And that was on the knocker on the door?

0:16:280:16:30

At first, at first, and then I had a shop and I used to...

0:16:300:16:33

That's how I learnt to sell things. Well, really to sell yourself.

0:16:330:16:36

You learn how to look people in the eye and try to sell things to them,

0:16:360:16:41

and I think, er...

0:16:410:16:43

Could you sell me a pot of something if you set your mind to it?

0:16:430:16:46

- Yes. - You could?

0:16:460:16:48

- Yes, I think so, yes. - How did you get your start

0:16:480:16:50

in show business proper?

0:16:500:16:52

I, er... As I say, I was doing all these local shows,

0:16:520:16:56

and then I did one or two shows in theatres.

0:16:560:17:00

Er, I did a show, for instance, in New Brighton,

0:17:000:17:03

an RAF Benevolent Fund show once,

0:17:030:17:06

on a Sunday, and an old chap there saw me -

0:17:060:17:09

a man called Dan Slater, who had been a comic

0:17:090:17:11

and also been a theatre manager.

0:17:110:17:13

And he sort of took over my management for a while

0:17:130:17:16

and got me some theatre shows,

0:17:160:17:19

just within sort of 50 miles of Merseyside.

0:17:190:17:22

Then he introduced me to a marvellous man -

0:17:220:17:25

a wonderful agent called Dave Forrester -

0:17:250:17:28

who took me on and took me from the Wigan Hippodrome,

0:17:280:17:32

where I did one of my very first shows where he saw me...

0:17:320:17:36

I was a guest artist in a show there.

0:17:360:17:39

Actually, it was...

0:17:390:17:40

I didn't know when I signed the contract, it was a nude show,

0:17:400:17:43

and I was put in as a sort of guest artist in the second half.

0:17:430:17:46

And they boasted that they had the only moving nude in the business,

0:17:460:17:50

cos in those days, they weren't allowed to move,

0:17:500:17:52

and a young lady was pushed across the stage on a bicycle.

0:17:520:17:56

So she was a moving nude, and I was on in that show

0:17:560:17:59

and he signed me up then, on a six-month probationary contract.

0:17:590:18:03

And he...

0:18:030:18:05

It lasted until two or three years ago, when he passed away at age 90,

0:18:050:18:10

but I always think he was 100 and kept 10% for himself.

0:18:100:18:13

But he... He...

0:18:130:18:15

Perhaps he was...

0:18:150:18:16

He took me from Wigan to the Palladium.

0:18:160:18:19

And where you had that amazing, successful run.

0:18:190:18:22

But you were fortunate, it seems to me,

0:18:220:18:25

that in those days - however long ago those days were and, again,

0:18:250:18:29

we're getting to the point

0:18:290:18:31

where you ought to be able to identify these dates -

0:18:310:18:33

you were fortunate to be working when the music hall tradition

0:18:330:18:36

in this country - such as at the Wigan Hippodrome...

0:18:360:18:40

- Yes, indeed. - ..was still alive,

0:18:400:18:41

was still happening.

0:18:410:18:43

You could get out there on the boards and work.

0:18:430:18:45

People call them music halls because...

0:18:450:18:47

They were variety theatres,

0:18:470:18:48

and music hall was a bit before that -

0:18:480:18:50

music hall was where people actually sat in the audience...

0:18:500:18:52

- OK, variety theatre. - More like the clubs,

0:18:520:18:54

but the variety theatres

0:18:540:18:55

and the giant... The big ones,

0:18:550:18:57

the big Moss Stoll tours were gradually

0:18:570:19:01

coming to the end of their life,

0:19:010:19:03

and I was very, very lucky and I turned professional in 1954 -

0:19:030:19:06

September 27th 1954 - at the Nottingham Empire,

0:19:060:19:10

and the next week was Leeds

0:19:100:19:11

and the following week was Sunderland,

0:19:110:19:13

and then up to the house of terror -

0:19:130:19:15

Glasgow Empire -

0:19:150:19:17

and down to Birmingham, Brighton.

0:19:170:19:20

And I played all these wonderful, marvellous theatres

0:19:200:19:23

and worked with some great stars, some big, big stars.

0:19:230:19:26

My second week was...

0:19:260:19:27

The first week was with Kenny Baker - the famous trumpeter -

0:19:270:19:31

who is still very much Kenny Baker, the famous trumpeter.

0:19:310:19:35

Then the second week was Suzette Tarry,

0:19:350:19:38

a wonderful lady who taught me how to take bows.

0:19:380:19:40

She said on the second night, on the Tuesday, she said,

0:19:400:19:42

"Young man, you have quite a good act,

0:19:420:19:44

"but you can't take bows for toffee.

0:19:440:19:46

"Would you like me to show you?" "Oh," I said, "Yes, please."

0:19:460:19:49

She said, "I shall be here every night when you come off the stage,

0:19:490:19:52

"and you do exactly what I do, what I tell you to do."

0:19:520:19:54

And so, every night for that week, as I came off, she told me

0:19:540:19:57

when to go on, when to hold back, when to take a long bow,

0:19:570:20:00

and she taught me how to take bows.

0:20:000:20:02

Who else did you learn from?

0:20:020:20:04

I learned from... I had wonderful heroes to look up to.

0:20:040:20:07

I think when you're trying to learn anything,

0:20:070:20:09

when you're trying to study any particular art,

0:20:090:20:11

I think you sort of look to the best,

0:20:110:20:13

and I worked with some of the best and some of the kindest people.

0:20:130:20:18

Jewel and Warriss, who were absolutely wonderful to me.

0:20:180:20:21

Little Arthur Askey, who was my hero!

0:20:210:20:24

So much energy, it was like seeing a firework display go off.

0:20:240:20:27

I worked with Ted Ray, who I think

0:20:270:20:29

was the best stand-up comic of them all.

0:20:290:20:32

I worked with Max Miller in Brighton.

0:20:320:20:34

I met Max and he was a wonderful person.

0:20:340:20:37

He was getting rather old then, but he was still a giant.

0:20:370:20:41

And Tommy Cooper... All the greats.

0:20:410:20:44

Where could you, or where could a successor to you, start now?

0:20:440:20:49

It would be a very different apprenticeship, wouldn't it?

0:20:490:20:51

Very. Even...

0:20:510:20:53

Even allowing for the fact that I believe there are now more theatres

0:20:530:20:57

in this country than there were 40 years ago -

0:20:570:20:59

that's an amazing fact, isn't it?

0:20:590:21:01

A lot of people think the theatres are all gone. No.

0:21:010:21:03

There are more theatres now,

0:21:030:21:04

but they're all smaller theatres - they're all 500-seater, 1,000-seater.

0:21:040:21:08

Every town, every city worthy of its salt - or gritting -

0:21:080:21:12

has its own civic theatre or a theatre run by a trust.

0:21:120:21:16

And there are thousands - hundreds, certainly -

0:21:160:21:19

probably thousands of theatres all over Britain.

0:21:190:21:21

I made a vow that I would play every one,

0:21:210:21:23

and I'm still probably only halfway through.

0:21:230:21:25

- Have you kept count? - Yeah. Well, not count.

0:21:250:21:27

Well, I could, I suppose, if I went through my date sheet,

0:21:270:21:30

but it's a lot. I've played some strange ones.

0:21:300:21:33

Some up in Shetlands, er...

0:21:330:21:35

oh...

0:21:350:21:36

in the Theatre in the Forest in the Lake District.

0:21:360:21:38

But all these theatres.

0:21:380:21:40

I was very lucky I was able to play all the big theatres

0:21:400:21:42

before they closed.

0:21:420:21:44

I, er...

0:21:440:21:46

I've played some very strange ones, too.

0:21:460:21:49

What's your comedy about?

0:21:490:21:52

My comedy is about giving people laughter.

0:21:520:21:54

Yeah, but what's the subject matter of it?

0:21:540:21:56

Happiness.

0:21:560:21:57

No, that's the end effect you're trying...

0:21:570:21:59

You're saying the targets?

0:21:590:22:01

- What are you trying to achieve? - The subject matter?

0:22:010:22:03

No, what do you make jokes about?

0:22:030:22:05

Jokes about, mostly...

0:22:050:22:06

All comedy, all humour, all jokes,

0:22:070:22:10

reflect the lives we live.

0:22:100:22:12

It reflects our lifestyle.

0:22:120:22:14

That is why a lot of jokes, a lot of American humour -

0:22:140:22:17

some American humour, a lot of American - doesn't travel very well

0:22:170:22:21

and a lot of our humour doesn't travel well over there.

0:22:210:22:23

And European humour, but it all reflects that...

0:22:230:22:26

So my jokes are about family life, er...

0:22:260:22:29

I start...

0:22:290:22:30

My act is like a kaleidoscope, if you will.

0:22:300:22:32

I go on first of all and I try to build the bridge

0:22:320:22:35

and I talk about the most important thing in the world - themselves.

0:22:350:22:39

- What's that? - Themselves.

0:22:390:22:41

- Right. - Then I talk about the place.

0:22:410:22:44

I josh the place, I have a little...

0:22:440:22:47

Tease them about the town they live in,

0:22:470:22:50

the city they live in, about the traffic systems and I say,

0:22:500:22:54

"This traffic system,

0:22:540:22:55

"you must be very proud - nobody'll ever find you now."

0:22:550:22:57

And that works in every city in Great Britain, cos every city

0:22:570:23:00

and every town in Great Britain has a traffic problem.

0:23:000:23:03

Then I talk about...

0:23:030:23:05

And gradually, you ingratiate yourself into their confidence,

0:23:050:23:08

so that then they trust you, they trust you with their minds.

0:23:080:23:12

They trust you with their sense of humour,

0:23:120:23:14

cos people are very proud of their sense of humour,

0:23:140:23:17

and they won't just let anybody tickle them.

0:23:170:23:19

Then, through the act,

0:23:190:23:21

you gradually get to the stage

0:23:210:23:23

where you can talk about being very...

0:23:230:23:25

very, er...surrealistic.

0:23:250:23:27

You can talk about men's legs

0:23:270:23:28

getting very lonely in their trousers,

0:23:280:23:30

in the dark all day.

0:23:300:23:33

How important is the fantasy language that you invent, as well?

0:23:330:23:36

I very rarely...

0:23:360:23:38

The fantasy language - the tattyfilariousness

0:23:380:23:40

and the discomknockerating -

0:23:400:23:42

that really is another...is another department.

0:23:420:23:44

That was more for, mmm...

0:23:440:23:47

More for the zany part of it,

0:23:470:23:49

and particularly in the children's humour section - the family audience.

0:23:490:23:53

I'd been professional about, er...

0:23:530:23:56

well, only about six months

0:23:560:23:57

and I discovered a brand-new audience.

0:23:570:23:59

When I started off, I was a front-cloth comic.

0:23:590:24:02

That's a comic that, er, goes on when the...

0:24:020:24:06

you know, the liberty horses are behind.

0:24:060:24:09

And, er, then I discovered a brand-new aud... The family audience.

0:24:090:24:12

The family audience of pantomime, the family audience of summer season,

0:24:120:24:16

where mums and dads took the children,

0:24:160:24:18

and their aunties and the uncles

0:24:180:24:20

and the grannies, and you have to find a completely new approach.

0:24:200:24:23

New subject matter, so I invented...

0:24:230:24:25

That's the language and the Diddymen.

0:24:250:24:27

I invented these little Diddymen for the children,

0:24:270:24:29

and the discomknockerating and the tattyfilariousness.

0:24:290:24:32

It's all trademarks - the hair, the teeth, the fingers, the eyes -

0:24:320:24:35

they're all trademarked to make you different

0:24:350:24:38

than any other humorist, different than any other comic.

0:24:380:24:40

You have to be different.

0:24:400:24:42

Can a comic be good-looking?

0:24:420:24:43

If he is, he has to do something about it.

0:24:440:24:47

And he has to...

0:24:470:24:48

- The teeth are deliberate. - I've always been cursed...

0:24:480:24:50

The teeth are deliberate. You could have had the teeth fixed.

0:24:500:24:52

- Oh, yes, yes, yes. - But it would, er...

0:24:520:24:54

I didn't know that. I didn't know that until about, er...

0:24:540:24:56

about ten years ago.

0:24:560:24:58

I was sitting in a dental surgery here in London, and he said,

0:24:580:25:02

"Well, that's it, Mr Dodd.

0:25:020:25:04

"Anything else we can do?"

0:25:040:25:05

Laughing, I said, "Yes, if you can straighten them."

0:25:050:25:08

"Oh, yes, we can do that for you."

0:25:080:25:10

"What?" And then I was left with this dilemma.

0:25:100:25:13

- My agent nearly had a relapse... - I should think, yeah.

0:25:130:25:15

..when I told her I was going to have my teeth straightened.

0:25:150:25:18

But, er, no, I think... you have to be able to go...

0:25:180:25:21

..and do all this stuff,

0:25:230:25:25

because...part of the psychology of humour is to make an audience

0:25:250:25:29

feel that they're superior to you.

0:25:290:25:31

You have to learn humility, you have to let people laugh at you.

0:25:310:25:34

It's very important that you...

0:25:340:25:36

And I don't mind, I don't mind people laughing at me. It's fine.

0:25:360:25:38

It's part of my job, I'm a jester.

0:25:380:25:41

Setting the family audience aside for another day,

0:25:410:25:44

how rude can you be?

0:25:440:25:46

I had... Once again, I had great heroes to look up to - Robb Wilton,

0:25:480:25:52

er...Tommy Handley and these giants...

0:25:520:25:55

these giant - not just comedians, they were humorists.

0:25:550:25:58

They were very creative people. Jimmy James said to me once, he said,

0:25:580:26:02

"See, Ken, there are people who say funny things,

0:26:020:26:04

"and people who say things funny,"

0:26:040:26:06

meaning the difference between a man who just tells jokes and a man who

0:26:060:26:10

actually sort of creates jokes,

0:26:100:26:12

creates the humour, creates them and acts them.

0:26:120:26:15

And I think... They didn't... They were never obscene.

0:26:150:26:19

They may have been slightly risque.

0:26:190:26:20

No, but you. How sexy is your act, in fact?

0:26:200:26:24

Oh, ah, well, yes.

0:26:240:26:25

Well, I... I like it to be spicy

0:26:250:26:29

and I like people to know that I'm very much a man

0:26:290:26:33

and I tell honeymoon jokes and I tell jokes about, er...

0:26:330:26:37

I say I'm a sex symbol for women who don't care.

0:26:370:26:41

And I do stuff like that, yes.

0:26:420:26:44

But, I mean, the tickling stick.

0:26:440:26:45

- The tickling stick. Well, that... - That's a sex symbol, isn't it?

0:26:450:26:48

Well, people have... but I think that's a phallus-y.

0:26:480:26:51

Yeah, but I know that, but it actually is a phallus, isn't it?

0:26:510:26:54

I mean, that's what it is.

0:26:540:26:55

No, I don't think so. Tickling, I think, can be...

0:26:550:26:58

Tickling can be innuendo.

0:26:580:27:00

Tickling can be sort of, "By Jove, missus, how tickled we are!"

0:27:000:27:03

That, yes, it's the...

0:27:030:27:05

You're talking about something that's getting into the area of,

0:27:050:27:08

er...the enjoyment of sex, but sex is a thing to be celebrated.

0:27:080:27:13

It's a wonderful thing. It's a...

0:27:130:27:15

It is happiness.

0:27:150:27:17

Isn't the essence of that that you're...

0:27:170:27:20

that you're pretending not to go the whole way,

0:27:200:27:23

but they're actually imagining it?

0:27:230:27:25

Well, yes, this is a very...

0:27:250:27:27

I think I learnt that from Max Miller.

0:27:270:27:29

Max Miller never told rude jokes.

0:27:290:27:31

Everybody thought that Max Miller was a blue comedian.

0:27:310:27:33

He was never a blue comedian. He always dared the audience to...

0:27:330:27:36

"Please, lady, lady, don't make me say it, lady, don't make me say it."

0:27:360:27:39

Yeah, but that's because he made them think it.

0:27:390:27:41

- He teased. - He didn't say it,

0:27:410:27:42

but made them think it.

0:27:420:27:44

He teased, he teased the audience. You do, of course.

0:27:440:27:46

I mean, if sex and even vulgarity and bawdiness...

0:27:460:27:50

Bawdiness is a wonderful thing.

0:27:500:27:52

It's a wonderful thing to celebrate being a human being.

0:27:520:27:55

Do you ever take a break?

0:27:550:27:57

Yes. Yes.

0:27:570:27:59

What do you do when you relax?

0:27:590:28:01

We like to travel.

0:28:010:28:03

Er...

0:28:030:28:04

Like to travel to interesting places.

0:28:040:28:07

Took you a long time, I've read somewhere, to go abroad.

0:28:070:28:09

Oh, no. That was a story at one time.

0:28:090:28:11

- That's a story. - I was very busy. I was very busy.

0:28:110:28:14

As I say, I started...

0:28:140:28:16

being a professional comedian in 1954,

0:28:160:28:19

and within ten years, I was starring at the London Palladium,

0:28:190:28:23

which wasn't bad.

0:28:230:28:24

And then, we did 42 weeks then went back the following...1967,

0:28:240:28:30

played another 40 weeks there,

0:28:300:28:32

played Windsor Castle, the Royal Household party.

0:28:320:28:34

- How did that go? - Very well! Very well!

0:28:340:28:37

I can remember singing Happiness - # Happiness, happiness # -

0:28:370:28:41

and...Her Majesty was just where you are now,

0:28:410:28:45

and I looked down and her hands were going on the arms there.

0:28:450:28:49

That was a wonderful...

0:28:520:28:53

I shall treasure that for the rest of my life.

0:28:530:28:55

You sing Happiness, and you obviously make...

0:28:550:28:58

- but can you give people happiness? - Yes.

0:28:580:29:00

Is happiness something everybody can have?

0:29:000:29:01

Yes, it's a attitude of mind, isn't it? It is an attitude of mind.

0:29:010:29:05

And, er, sometimes people,

0:29:050:29:07

when they're very depressed, can go to a show -

0:29:070:29:10

I'm very proud to say, they come to my shows -

0:29:100:29:13

and, feeling quite down, quite depressed sometimes,

0:29:130:29:17

for all sorts of reasons.

0:29:170:29:19

And we get, you know, they tell us afterwards that it was...it was...

0:29:190:29:24

for a few hours, it really gave them a lift.

0:29:240:29:27

Can you perform when you're not happy yourself?

0:29:270:29:30

It's... It's, er... You have to, actually.

0:29:310:29:34

No, you don't have to.

0:29:340:29:35

But you have chosen to, haven't you?

0:29:350:29:37

Yes, there is a...

0:29:370:29:39

Once again, it's like two people again.

0:29:390:29:40

It's, er...the private person,

0:29:400:29:44

before they go on stage,

0:29:440:29:46

might feel quite down or even...

0:29:460:29:49

just not feel like being the comedian at all,

0:29:490:29:53

but once the music starts and you're on, something happens -

0:29:530:29:58

you become another person.

0:29:580:29:59

And can that be true even if someone you love very much is ill?

0:29:590:30:04

It has happened, yes, yes.

0:30:040:30:06

Or someone you love very much has died?

0:30:060:30:08

- Yes. That has happened, yes. - Did you have to perform...

0:30:080:30:11

- Yes. - ..when your father died?

0:30:110:30:13

- Yes, I did, yes. - You didn't choose not to?

0:30:130:30:15

I didn't. I chose... Out of respect for him, I chose to do it.

0:30:150:30:19

Yeah.

0:30:190:30:20

Was that hard?

0:30:200:30:22

That particular night was very hard, yes.

0:30:220:30:25

Yes, that was very hard.

0:30:250:30:27

Is this going out there

0:30:270:30:29

and losing yourself in an audience

0:30:290:30:32

a sort of escape from the difficulties of life?

0:30:320:30:35

Not from the difficulties.

0:30:370:30:38

It's an escape to somewhere very, very happy.

0:30:380:30:40

I enjoy myself, I have the time of my life when I'm on the stage.

0:30:400:30:43

I really do, I enjoy every second of it.

0:30:430:30:45

Is the large part of your audiences women?

0:30:450:30:47

No, no.

0:30:480:30:49

I have a very, very...wonderful sort of...

0:30:490:30:53

wonderful spread of audiences.

0:30:530:30:54

I... I have... We have...

0:30:540:30:56

It seems to me that a lot of your act is addressed to women.

0:30:560:30:59

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Cos women do...

0:30:590:31:03

Ladies do have a better sense of humour - well, a more emotional

0:31:030:31:06

sense of humour - than men, cos women are more emotional than men.

0:31:060:31:09

Oh, yes. Men are much more...

0:31:090:31:11

They hold it and it's a bit more macho, isn't it,

0:31:110:31:14

to sort of keep it to...?

0:31:140:31:17

"Make me laugh!"

0:31:170:31:18

Whereas ladies, they really... They get it.

0:31:180:31:20

They're out for a good time. They enjoy themselves.

0:31:200:31:23

If you've ever been to a hen party...

0:31:230:31:26

Well, why is it that you manage to give them so good a time?

0:31:260:31:30

I enjoy it myself.

0:31:300:31:31

I love doing it and I take good care to try and get good material,

0:31:310:31:36

to try and write good material, to try and, er,

0:31:360:31:38

get other people to write me good material,

0:31:380:31:40

and I know a good joke when I see one,

0:31:400:31:42

and I only do my own - I'll only do my own material.

0:31:420:31:45

I mean, you come on to them as sexy but innocent, would you say?

0:31:450:31:47

Yes. Yes, I think so, yes.

0:31:470:31:49

I mean you wrap your rudeness

0:31:490:31:51

and sexiness in a sort of childlike...

0:31:510:31:53

- Yes, that is true. - ..quality.

0:31:530:31:55

Yes, that is so.

0:31:550:31:56

I mean, let me ask you seriously,

0:31:560:31:59

are you as good with...are you as popular with younger audiences,

0:31:590:32:03

or is there something that's pleasantly familiar

0:32:030:32:07

about your act for older audiences?

0:32:070:32:09

Every... Every ten years - I think every seven years,

0:32:090:32:12

but every ten years, you have to pass an exam again with the public.

0:32:120:32:16

You have to reinvent yourself, and you have to find...

0:32:160:32:19

You come up with something new,

0:32:190:32:21

or do something rather spectacular, and, er...

0:32:210:32:25

this is... Thank goodness I've been able to do this for 40 years.

0:32:250:32:29

I've either had a successful record or I've had a successful,

0:32:290:32:34

er, show in London in the West End that's brought me a lot of publicity,

0:32:340:32:39

or I've done a very successful... Perhaps a successful television show.

0:32:390:32:43

Er, as... Last year, we did a...a mega success - a mega success -

0:32:430:32:49

with a show called An Audience With...

0:32:490:32:51

and this was a big, big success

0:32:510:32:53

and this was... I've reinvented Ken Dodd again,

0:32:530:32:56

and now there's all sorts of teenagers

0:32:560:32:59

and boys and girls coming up

0:32:590:33:01

and saying, "We never realised that this sort of comedy...

0:33:010:33:04

"We thought comedy was all about swearing at the audience.

0:33:040:33:07

"We thought comedy was all about talking about -

0:33:070:33:10

"well, mentioning, er, unmentionable things!

0:33:100:33:14

"Taboos, we never realised you could have a good time

0:33:140:33:16

"just by talking about...

0:33:160:33:19

"Oh, no, no, talking about the doctor's routine or the..."

0:33:190:33:22

What are the best moments of your life? Are they on stage or off it?

0:33:220:33:26

Well, a mixture of both, I think. I've had some... I've, er...

0:33:280:33:31

Whatever success I've had,

0:33:310:33:33

I've some wonderful people helping me,

0:33:330:33:35

and I've got some...

0:33:350:33:37

I've had a lovely family who help me.

0:33:370:33:39

I've got partners - I've got a partner who helps me.

0:33:390:33:43

I've got, er...

0:33:430:33:44

I've got, er, lots and lots of friends and supporters

0:33:440:33:48

and they all help in their own way.

0:33:480:33:50

What have been the worst moments of your life?

0:33:500:33:52

Well, I think the same as most people - bereavements and, er,

0:33:520:33:56

sometimes, when you're up against it.

0:33:560:33:59

Yeah, I think everybody gets their share of tough times,

0:33:590:34:03

but you, er...

0:34:030:34:05

I have a...

0:34:050:34:06

I'm very grateful that I have something in here that...

0:34:060:34:11

I don't... I think you'd call it...

0:34:130:34:16

I think you'd call it courage, I think.

0:34:160:34:19

When I've been down, something gets very, very determined there

0:34:190:34:25

that it's not gonna beat me,

0:34:250:34:26

and I won't let it beat me, and I won't and I won't.

0:34:260:34:30

And I still have the enthusiasm.

0:34:300:34:32

That is the greatest talent anybody can possibly have

0:34:320:34:35

if they're thinking of coming into show business or the theatre -

0:34:350:34:38

you have to have enthusiasm.

0:34:380:34:40

Do you have fears? What do you fear in life?

0:34:400:34:43

I think, like most... Like most people...

0:34:440:34:46

I'm blessed with reasonable health,

0:34:460:34:49

but I'd be frightened of being incapacitated.

0:34:490:34:52

I'd be, er...

0:34:520:34:54

I'd be frightened of somebody telling me I had a terminal illness.

0:34:540:34:58

Er...

0:34:580:35:00

I think I... I think I'm frightened...

0:35:000:35:03

I'm fearful of, er...

0:35:040:35:06

when the end of my life comes,

0:35:060:35:09

that maybe I won't have done all the things

0:35:090:35:12

I would want to have done,

0:35:120:35:14

and maybe, er...maybe I'd want to redress one or two things.

0:35:140:35:19

But, yeah, I think I'm mostly norm...

0:35:190:35:22

Things that most men and women are frightened of, I think.

0:35:220:35:24

- Are you a believing man? - Yes, yes. Yes, I believe in my...

0:35:240:35:28

I believe in my creator, and I don't think it matters whether you call him

0:35:280:35:32

God, Jehovah, Muhammad, Buddha - I think it's the, er...

0:35:320:35:36

They're all different ways of approaching our creator.

0:35:360:35:41

I cannot possibly believe that I'm an accident.

0:35:410:35:45

I... I must have a... I must... There must be...

0:35:450:35:48

And I feel very strongly - very strongly sometimes -

0:35:480:35:50

that I'm being guided, that I'm being helped, yes.

0:35:500:35:54

You're very loyal to your roots.

0:35:540:35:56

Is it... Do you live in the same house you were born in?

0:35:560:36:00

- Yes. Yes. - Have you always lived there?

0:36:000:36:02

Yes.

0:36:020:36:03

You lived there with your father and mother.

0:36:030:36:05

- Yes. - And now you live...

0:36:050:36:06

But I live in other places as well, you know,

0:36:060:36:08

when I played the Palladium for several years, I lived in London.

0:36:080:36:12

Er... I, er, I've lived in other parts of the country,

0:36:120:36:16

and I lived in other parts of the world for a time.

0:36:160:36:18

I live on Merseyside - Liverpool in particular -

0:36:180:36:22

because it's a wonderful city,

0:36:220:36:24

full of people who are very, very full of enthusiasm.

0:36:240:36:28

Once again, this... That's why so many comedians come from Liverpool.

0:36:280:36:31

People used to say, "Why do so many comedians come from Liverpool?"

0:36:310:36:34

Arthur Askey said, "You've got to be a comedian to live in Liverpool."

0:36:340:36:37

They're the sort... They're very, very...

0:36:370:36:39

What do you spend your money on?

0:36:390:36:41

Er...books.

0:36:410:36:43

Books. Er...

0:36:430:36:45

..clothes, you know, some clothes.

0:36:460:36:49

But mostly...mostly books, I think,

0:36:490:36:52

and any...and gadgets.

0:36:520:36:53

I love gadgets! I love things like anything electronic.

0:36:530:36:57

Everything from sort of computers, down to, er...video recorders

0:36:570:37:02

and recording machines.

0:37:020:37:04

Do you have regrets?

0:37:040:37:06

Oh, yes.

0:37:060:37:07

- What are your regrets? - I think everybody has regrets.

0:37:070:37:09

Er...

0:37:090:37:11

I do regret I haven't got children, yes.

0:37:110:37:16

Yes, I do regret that

0:37:160:37:18

and I do regret that perhaps... I think I would have, er...

0:37:180:37:23

I think I would have liked to have started travelling earlier.

0:37:250:37:28

I think I would've, er...

0:37:280:37:31

I would've liked to have gone to university, I think.

0:37:310:37:33

Are you really a loner, a very lonely person?

0:37:330:37:38

No, I don't think so. No, no. I love chatting.

0:37:380:37:41

I'm a terrible...gasbag.

0:37:410:37:45

I love talking and, yes, I talk sometimes when I should be listening,

0:37:450:37:49

but, er, I do talk a lot and I love talking with friends

0:37:490:37:52

and, er, you know,

0:37:520:37:54

people in show business, but I think everyone, deep down inside,

0:37:540:37:58

has moments of...moments of quiet

0:37:580:38:01

and moments of, er, thinking.

0:38:010:38:04

And, yes, think about what it's all about, and I do, er,

0:38:040:38:10

I have...

0:38:100:38:11

I have...I think, like most people,

0:38:110:38:14

feelings of compassion for parts of the world that, er, shouldn't be

0:38:140:38:19

the way they are and for people who shouldn't be in the state they are.

0:38:190:38:24

And I realise that God hasn't made us all equal by any means,

0:38:240:38:29

and perhaps the strong ones are here to look after the weaker people.

0:38:290:38:34

Will you ever retire?

0:38:340:38:36

I don't think so. I don't think so.

0:38:360:38:38

The comedian will say, er...

0:38:380:38:40

When I'm asked this question, "Will you ever retire?",

0:38:400:38:43

say, "No, no, no, missus.

0:38:430:38:45

"But your children will tell their grandchildren

0:38:450:38:47

"I was in the theatre the night he was shot."

0:38:470:38:49

That's the comedian, but the retire...

0:38:490:38:52

No, while I've got my health,

0:38:520:38:53

while I can do it, I can't think of

0:38:530:38:56

anything more wonderful than to go onto a stage,

0:38:560:38:58

or into a television studio,

0:38:580:39:00

or in a radio studio and just to give laughter

0:39:000:39:05

and to hear the sound of laughter

0:39:050:39:07

and know that I had something to do with making them laugh.

0:39:070:39:10

First transmitted in 1995, a special edition of The Late Show sees comedian Ken Dodd talking to Jeremy Isaacs about his career and unique approach to comedy. In this rare television interview, Dodd shares stories of his humble beginnings in 1930s Liverpool, his big break in 1965 at the London Palladium and his performance to the royal household at Windsor Castle. He also talks about his fears, regrets and philosophy of life.