A tribute to Liverpudlian comic Ken Dodd, in which he discusses his career and influences. Featuring clips of his early performances and footage of him on tour in recent times.
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I'm a performer. The turn. An entertainer.
You're not supposed to dawdle, you've gotta get along! Ya-hoo!
She said, "Do you know what an erogenous zone is?"
I said, "I know you can't park there after six o'clock."
"Have you ever tried an aphrodisiac?"
I said, "I went out with a Norwegian girl once."
She said, "Do you believe in safe sex?"
I said, "I've got a handrail round the bed.
"And I always try to keep one foot on the ground."
She said, "What about your libido?"
I said, "I'm gonna swap it for a Sierra."
'Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Ken Dodd!'
How tickled I am to be here with you tonight.
-Has anybody seen my show before?
Would you mind telling me what I do next, please?
Yuletide, ladies and gentlemen, is nearly upon us.
Only 12 more shoplifting days to Christmas.
Another wonderful day in what's been a wonderful week.
I'd be out here all night, cos I'm stage-struck. Can you tell?
If you don't laugh at the jokes,
I'll follow you home and shout 'em through the letterbox.
I will smile!
Ken Dodd is a national institution.
He's been a professional comedian for 53 years.
He's had 20 hit records, including Tears,
which sold more than two million copies.
This year, he celebrated his 80th birthday,
still travelling the country,
performing his Happiness show three times a week.
Did you always prefer doing live performances?
Always. Still do, yeah.
You play an audience like you play an instrument.
An audience is... I've never actually done a solo act on my own.
It's always been a double act - it's me and the audience.
Is it different when you do telly?
Oh, yes, on television, you're just performing to a set of wires,
or a camera, or...
They say, "Don't look over there, look over there."
"Why am I doing that?" "It's a better camera shot."
"Oh, really? All I can see there is 'Exit'.
"That could be a hint."
# Happiness, happiness
# The greatest gift that we possess
# I thank the Lord that we've been blessed
# With more than our share of... #
# Happiness, happiness
# The greatest gift that we possess
# I thank the Lord that I've been blessed
# With more than my share of happiness
# I've got more than our share of ha-ppi-ness! #
"They made us laugh."
You can't MAKE anybody laugh.
-Did you know that?
The song, "Make 'em laugh," but you can't.
You can winkle it out.
It's already there.
If it isn't there, you can't pull it out.
It's in everybody.
-And how do you winkle it out?
That's the comedian's job, innit?
With one of these.
I am a commercial comedian.
I travel the length and breadth of the British Isles,
I travel right up to the Shetlands,
a few shows there, right down to the Channel Islands,
across through Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, Hunstanton.
My ambition was to play every theatre in Britain.
Ahoy there! Ahoy there!
This is it, folks.
Have you read this?
-Um, I've been through that one.
-Does it make you laugh?
I've been through them all.
That one's got one very good joke in it.
One in the whole book of Jewish jokes?!
No, there'd be more than that.
You've got that, haven't you?
You've got this one, haven't you?
I think I'll take me coat off to this.
Oh, good gracious me!
You haven't got that?
Have you bought many books in here?
-Over the years, I think I've... Thousands.
Thousands of books.
In fact, I've been barred from buying any more,
but I still come down just the same.
How about this one?
-What kind of things do you buy in here?
Books on humour, books about comedians, entertainers,
-I'm a Dickens maniac.
-Do you read him a lot?
-Has anyone ever written a good book about you?
I had, a long, long, long time ago,
Michael Billington of the Guardian wrote quite a good one
called How Tickled I Am, but since then, one or two...pirates...
..brigands have said they'd do a biography.
I said, "No, no.
"If anybody's gonna do a biography, it'll be me.
"I will write the biography."
He said, "No, no, no.
"If you won't co-operate, we'll do it without you."
"Carry on, then."
Do you think you ever will write your...?
Of course I will, one of these days.
One of these days, I will write the...
I've been around for quite a while
and I've been in show business for over 50 years,
so I reckon... I've been an entertainer for over 50 years,
so I think I should write an entertaining book.
I'd like to say how tickled I am,
how tickled I am, can you see that?
I'll do it again, this lady seemed to like it.
Put the binoculars away now, dear.
I was born in Liverpool, on the outskirts,
Knotty Ash. Knotty Ash.
My father, Dad, Pop, Arthur,
was a very, very funny man, a brilliant comedian.
He used to tell jokes all the time.
I think that's how I learnt to tell jokes.
Most little boys want to be like their fathers
and I learned how to tell jokes by my dad telling me jokes.
My father's jokes, I still do,
and he got them from his father.
So I'm still telling jokes...
And they always get big laughs.
What's the joke I do...?
"How many children have you got?
"Eight? Have you really? Stand up and take a bow.
"No, sit down and take a rest.
"Do you live in a shoe? You must know what to do.
"What a good job you stitched that hole up in his pyjamas.
"You know what they say - a stitch in time saves..."
I've been telling that joke for 50 years.
More than 50 years, it still gets a good laugh.
Tell us about your childhood, Ken, and about your family background.
A comic has two biographies, two life stories.
You have the real one
and then you have the one that you get laughs with,
the one you tell the audience. I'd better tell you the real one first.
I'm the middle one of three.
There's Billy, my older brother, two years older than me
and June, two years younger than me.
My mother and father, Arthur and Sarah Dodd.
My dad was a coal merchant, a coal man, Knotty Ash.
And I had a wonderful childhood.
Round Knotty Ash, there's fields, fields, fields.
So when I was a little boy,
we just went mad, it was wonderful.
'Like the moth, the Diddy firefly
'makes its home in some article of clothing
'where it will pass the winter months smouldering gently
'and laying its fried eggs.
'Sometimes, the owner of the clothes
'is unaware of the firefly's presence until it is too late.'
By the blathering bagpipes of Killiekrankie,
I've got fireflies in my kilt! Och!
Quick! Put 'em out! Somebody put 'em out!
I'll put yous out, Hamish, me bucko.
Quick, stand over this soda siphon. That's it, me boy.
Oh, Mum, that's a gr-r-r-and feeling!
Och, I'm not a bit put out about being put out!
If you think about it,
there is a belief in small people all over the world,
this belief in magical small people -
leprechauns, pixies, boggarts.
Fairies, if you like. Talking animals, whimsy.
It's the humour of Wind In The Willows,
the Muppets, Walt Disney.
It's the humour of small people.
"The mole had been working very hard all morning,
"spring cleaning his little home.
"First with brooms, then with dusters,
"on ladders, steps and chairs,
"with a brush and a pail of whitewash
"till he had dust in his throat and eyes and splashes of whitewash
"all over his black fur.
"It was small wonder that he suddenly flung down his brush
"on the floor and said, 'Bother!'
" 'Bother! Oh, blow!'
"And also, 'Hang spring cleaning.' "
# We are the Diddymen
# Itty-bitty Diddymen
# We are the Diddymen who always have a bash... #
So I discovered the Diddymen, these little whimsical characters,
the Diddymen, who live in Knotty Ash,
and have the jam butty mines and the broken biscuit repair works,
snuff quarries, and the gravy wells.
I'm beginning to get fed up with you.
-I don't care.
I'm jacking it in.
"Jacking it in"?!
I'm jacking it in.
But if you leave me, I'll be in a hole, I'll be in a mess.
Remember, Dicky, ambition -
the grass is always greener the other side of the street.
You know who said that?
You must have enough now.
-What's your name?
-Eileen from Skem.
-To the left or the right?
-To the left.
Eileen from Skem.
That'll give me some happiness.
Yeah, well, that's what you need.
-Thank you, Eileen.
Thank you, Judy Jones.
Call again any time. Tatty bye.
All right, young man?
Thank you, sir. I bet you say that to all the boys!
# I don't believe that anybody... #
It's your money.
What did I do with it?
# And all the roads we have to walk are winding... #
You're good at walking backwards, missus.
You could get a job as an ice cream girl.
You can do that afterwards if you want to.
I'm not saying now.
-See there. International library.
'I started thinking about, what is a joke?
'I want to know why.
'Why does the human being laugh?
'Why do we make this funny noise? Ha-ha-ha.
'Your breath comes in short pants. Why don't your ears light up?
'Why doesn't your nose wiggle from side to side?
'Why this...? What is a laugh?
'Why? What goes on in here?
'Why do human beings laugh
'when they're confronted with a funny situation,
'a funny picture, or somebody tells them a funny joke?
'What is humour, what is a joke?
'How does one be a comedian?'
I used to come here every day of the week - months unending,
just sit here and read - looking at the index
and look up the word laughter and the word humour,
look up the word comedy, comedians, clowns, circus,
music hall, variety, theatre.
I used to sit down there and read and read and read
and, er...make notes, of course.
Little old lady went to the doctor's, she said,
"Doctor, can I have some more sleeping pills for my husband?"
He said, "Why?"
She said, "He's woke up!"
Another little old lady goes to the doctor's and says,
"Can I have some of them sleeping tablets?
He says, "Certainly not. I don't believe in those tranquilisers."
"If you can't sleep at night, do it nature's way - organically,"
"I can't play with..." He said, "No, no...
"Before you go to bed at night, have a tot of something."
"I do that already, doctor!" "You do?"
"Before I go to bed at night, I always have eight whiskies,
"four gins, two vodkas, a large brandy,
"a Martini and an egg flip."
"And you can't sleep?"
"No, I'm up all night singing."
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you for being a tottifilarious and a plumptious audience.
We wish you good health.
-There's just an endless font of jokes in your head.
-Can you ever turn them off?
Does it ever torment you?
Yes. Yes, sometimes.
Sometimes you, you'd like to think very seriously about something
and jokes keep popping into your head,
-so you have to learn to control it.
-It must be quite hard then?
"That's enough for now, thank you. That's quite enough, thank you.
"Right, go on... Kenny, go to your room."
-Is that what you have to do?
"Kenny, go to your room," and he goes there.
"And, Kenneth, you can come out now."
And I start thinking about something seriously.
There's two or three people in here, I think.
Two or three personalities, two or three characters,
two or three, erm...
..strong...personalities who would like to be heard.
Yeah, I think so.
There's a show business Ken Dodd,
and I think there's erm, there's a thinking Ken Dodd and, er...
hopefully there's an amusing Ken Dodd, I hope so, anyway -
one that can see the funny side.
This is the mouth of the River Mersey and there is my home -
the city of Liverpool, the city of laughter, city of tears.
This is the city that enabled me to be a performer
and here we are at the mouth of the Mersey,
just behind me are the Anthony Gormley men.
This one here is called Sid.
This is Sid.
We like that.
We could go now but I'm going to do one more
because I like your movement.
Over there you can see Wales, somewhere up there is Scotland
and straight on there going west thousands of people have left
this wonderful city to find adventure and success.
When I was a little boy, I could remember when we had
the dock road, what they call the docker's umbrella,
which was the overhead railway,
and lots of things were moved by huge great carthorses
pulling great loads of goods into the docks.
In Paris, all the chairs and tables are out on the streets.
In Liverpool, we call that eviction.
..From Liverpool. He's had four wooden legs, making a coffee table.
Every week, we used to have a Dodd family journey to a theatre
just up the road in Fraser Street
called the Shakespeare Theatre of Varieties.
I dare say I was very fortunate because
I was taken to the Variety Theatres by my mother and father
and I saw some of the greats
just at probably the back end of their careers.
And that's why I fell in love with music hall, with theatre.
The word variety really means a variety of skills.
All variety artists, entertainers, jugglers, acrobats, comedians,
ventriloquists, they are all like little one-man businesses,
or one-woman businesses.
'Of course no show of this kind is complete without a juggler.
'This next artist is considered by many
'the greatest in the world - Rudy Cardenas.'
I worked with Rudy Cardenas from Mexico and Rudy Horn from Germany
in Blackpool when I was in season with them there.
Every day, they'd rehearse from nine in the morning till five at night,
go home, have their tea, come back and do two shows.
The big specialities - the acrobats, the jugglers,
people who do deeds of immense daring,
you have to go to the circus.
Can you ever imagine ever doing anything different?
I think I, er, I like to be in charge.
You may have noticed that.
-You are a total control freak, Ken, I have to say.
-You so are!
-How dare you(!)
-I mean, I'm bad but you are worse than me.
Women won't do what they're told, that's all.
It couldn't be any other way as a comedian,
with the career that you've had, you couldn't do that.
I could but it wouldn't be as fun.
I served my apprenticeship round the clubs
and the after-dinner entertainments, smoker's concerts,
boiler makers, hotpots,
docker's soirees - anywhere where there was an audience, I'd go along
and I would do either my ventriloquist act
or my comedian's act.
-IN GERMAN ACCENT:
-What is this, chips?
The wurst chips? Where is the meat pie?
The cat's ate it.
Tom cat! I'll have it exterminated.
I will rid the world of tom cats.
Under the new regime, the master race will not have tom cats.
Where is the Reich pudding?
The Reich pudding - the cat ate that too.
No Reich pudding? No Reich pudding on Wednesday,
no Reich pudding on Thursday,
this is the third Reich pudding what is verboten this week.
I'll treat it in my book, Mein Bumpf.
-You have read Mein Bumpf?
-Yes, from cover to cover.
Under the new regime...
Young lady, young man, hello dear.
-Oh, same dentist.
-Now he looks a comedian to begin with.
You don't look anywhere near funny enough.
-You don't look funny, are you funny?
-Do you feel funny?
I feel funny all the bloody time. Funny - weird!
It's very kind of you to come along.
-You're not all from the same place?
-ALL: No. No.
But you all, er, want to be comedians?
-That would be all right.
-Why? Why do you want to be a comedian?
To be like you.
Ooh, he's a bloody smoothy, isn't he?
Do you mean you want to be famous and make a lot of money?
Yeah. That'd be all right.
Yeah, well, it's a good motivator, believe me.
What do you want to be a comedian for?
I just think doing a gig ages ago
and seeing someone really, really belly laugh,
I just think the feeling that you get from that,
you don't get that very often, do you?
-So I think...that's my motivation.
-Good for you.
When I go on stage, I get a massive rush of adrenaline
but when I come off,
I always feel dead low and disappointed that it's over.
I just wondered if you feel the same and if you do, how do you handle it?
It's something that you'll never lose
cos you always think you can do better.
You always think you could've done better.
Remember you used to get your school report
and it'd say, you know, "Good at gymnastics...
"..firm at English, mathematics - could do better."
Well, it's the same with being an entertainer,
you always think you can do better.
And sometimes you can,
but you've just got to remember it for next time
and next time, do better.
But you'll never... If you're, um...
If you really want to be an entertainer, a good entertainer,
you'll never actually be satisfied.
I learned the trade.
I practised on audiences.
I learned to read an audience's facial expressions.
I learned how to play a theatre.
I used to think I was wonderful and marvellous in bed.
Then I found out all my girlfriends had asthma.
I have thought of going into politics. As a matter of fact...
To be honest, the job I fancy is Chancellor of the Exchequer.
At least I'd be reunited with my money.
'So, er, do you still get nervous before you go on?
'The thing that goes through your mind before you go on is,
'you say, "Will I be OK tonight? Will I be able to do a good show?'
"Will I remember the gags, will I remember the jokes,
"will, erm, will I remember what I'm supposed to be doing?"
The thing to remember if you are an entertainer
and you are worried about going on is,
they really want you... They want you to be good.
They want to laugh.
So really you shouldn't be nervous, but you are.
There's only one cure for stage fright - keep doing it.
Keep doing it, listen to what the muse inside you told you.
It told you one day, "You can do it, you can do it."
So go on and do it.
So, yeah, yeah, of course you get nervous, you do the rituals,
but you think to yourself, "Yeah, go on. Have a go."
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
Oh, beautiful crowd, what can I say?
Thank you very much. Thank you.
No, I mean, how tickled I am on me vacation.
Tonight, ladies and gentlemen,
I feel absolutely tottifilarious and full of plumptiousness.
It makes me absolutely discomknickerated to see that
so many of you have turned up for the free soup and...
-Are you all enjoying yourselves?
Why, what are you doing?
Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have a fabulous show for you,
we've got artists from all the four corners of the labour exchange.
# Love is like a violin
# With its strings around your heart
# Soft and sweet as dreams begin
# Sadly crying when you part
# Make my heart your violin... #
Show business, you have to be many, many things.
You have to be the business side of show business, it's very important.
There's the business side, the power side,
trying to get to where you want to be
and when you get to where you want to be
then you have to start thinking about how to stay there.
Then, ultimately, there comes the question,
"Do you want to stay there?"
The whole pattern of show business has changed. At one time,
you set your stall out, put your bill up and did a season.
That is you do anything from 6 weeks to 26 weeks.
Er, when we were in Blackpool we used to go opening Whit
and go right through till Christmas,
twice nightly, three times on a Saturday.
The Palladium, I did the longest run ever there,
from Easter till Christmas, but now it's all one-nighters.
So, whereas at one time you could leave your props
at the theatre and just go there in the car,
now you have to take everything with you -
amplifiers, musical instruments, costumes, you take it all with you.
So the whole pattern of show business, at one time...
That'll be for me(!)
At one time...
'Ladies and gentlemen, we are now approaching Nuneaton.
'Change here for services to Cambridge, Stansted Airport
'and services to Coventry.
'Nuneaton is your next station. If you are leaving this train here,
'please remember to take all your belongings.'
Well, we're not going to any of those places. I'm going to London.
"Depicted backstage, with his trademark pink tickling stick,
"the painting reveals the vulnerability of the comic."
I think what he's thinking,
he's saying, it is sort of, "To be, or not to be,"
"To do, or not to do". I think he's thinking, "Did I get it right?
"This time, did I get it right?
"This time, did I remember to...put the punch line in the right place?
"How did I do?"
I think my mother and father would be very pleased with me.
"But the streets of London,
"to be beheld at the very height of their glory,
"should be seen on a dark, dull, murky winter's night
"when there is just enough damp gently stealing down,
"to make the pavement greasy,
"without cleansing it of any of its impurities,
"and when the heavy, lazy mist, which hangs over every object,
"makes the gas-lamps look brighter,
"and the brilliantly lighted shops more splendid
"from the contrast that they present to the darkness around.
"All the people who are at home on such a night as this,
"seem disposed to make themselves as snug and comfortable as possible,
"and the passengers in the streets have excellent reason to envy
"the fortunate individuals who are seated by their own fireside."
I've lived in London throughout the years.
Couldn't commute back to Knotty Ash, even if I wanted to.
I lived in a hotel in German Street,
and then in an apartment in Kensington,
and don't forget, this was in '65,
'the Swinging Sixties,
'so Carnaby Street was at the height of its fame,
'everywhere was wonderful, yeah.
'London was the most exciting place in the world.
'You met some very interesting people, some very eccentric people,
'very strange people. I was quite normal compared to them.
'I met a famous gangster, then the politicians started to come -
'Harold Wilson, Bessie Braddock...
'Lots of politicians came to the show.
'I think they wanted the gags, the jokes.'
RECORDING OF OLD SHOW PLAYS
DRUM ROLL 'Ladies and gentlemen,
'please welcome Ken Dodd!'
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE FROM OLD SHOW
By Jove, how tickled I am!
By Jove, how tickled we were.
How tickled we are.
By Jove, Missus! Hoo-hoo-hoo-ho-ho!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE FADES
This is where I used to get told off every night.
Every night, "Mr Dodd, you're 30 seconds over.
"Mr Dodd, you're a minute over."
If you did it too many times, you got a letter from the head office.
I think this is how I became a stickler for time,
for punctuality. I owe it all to this stage manager's desk.
But now that you can go on for as long as you want to,
is that why you do it, because you can?
Today's a different world entirely.
-Today there's one...
..there's one huge difference.
Today, I work for myself. So I'm the boss,
and I say to myself, "Mr Dodd, you're 30 seconds over."
-HE BLOWS A RASPBERRY
Every performer, his dream is to play here at the Palladium.
I had that honour several times,
but the '65 one,
of course, was the big one, because I'd never played in London before.
So this was a big challenge for me.
John Osborne brought the entire cast
of a farce called Meals On Wheels,
he wanted to show them what it was like for a comic,
how a comic timed his laughs,
the rhythm that a comic used for gags.
He was very nice, he came round afterwards and invited me to tea,
so I went to his house, had tea with John Osborne. Very nice.
I was quite well-known, you know.
-Did you miss Knotty Ash?
it was too exciting here. I was having a whale of a time here.
And besides, they all came from Knotty Ash to see the show.
I remember being here... We opened at Easter, on Good Friday,
and we were here in May, and they had the Cup final
and it went into extra time,
and the show had just come down, on a Saturday afternoon,
so we were all looking at the television set
and it went into extra time,
and Liverpool won the Cup final for the very first time.
First time Liverpool had ever won the Cup final,
that was the year they won it, in '65.
In the evening, all the fans were all round the Palladium,
all shouting, "We want Doddy!"
I don't know what they were gonna do to me if they got me,
but they were all round, all cheering...
Yeah, that was very exciting.
-It was a good time to be a Liverpudlian.
-It was indeed, yeah.
'65 was great, yeah.
I was probably one of the most...
..well, well-known of all the...whackers.
That's what we are, we're whackers.
'The show business personality of 1965, king of the diddy people,
# Can't buy me love
# Lo-o-ve Can't buy me love... #
"Ken Dodd, the people's comic in the truest sense,
"returned in triumph to the Palladium last night.
"The applause for him was huge,
"heartfelt, instantaneous and deserved."
"His skill is in the construction of the delivery
"and his judgment of our mood."
"Mr Dodd is one of the most accomplished performers
"to have hit the London stage."
"Doddy has become the darling of the London scene
"and is in danger of being captured by the intellectual set."
We've always, always thought it might be a good question
to put to Mr Kenneth Dodd and the members of The Beatles,
"To what extent to they attribute their success to their hairstyles?"
And we'll start by asking that question now of Mr Ken Dodd.
The hairstyle? Well, I think it has a great deal to do with my...
-with my what? Success?
Oh, yes! Well, I think so, yes. I like to keep it in trim.
I eat a lot of Shredded Wheat cos it's good for the hair,
and I have it cut twice a year, short, back and sides
and a bit off the shoulders...
What do you feel about the boys?
I think it's a wonderful style,
of course, they're different from me. With them being Martians...
..a professor of archaeology at Knotty Ash University
has discovered some tablets which say,
"The Beatles are definitely Martians,
"Grundy's their leader."
-How long have you known this, Kenneth?
I've known he was out of this world for a long time!
As Martians, I think it's a very good hairstyle.
I'd like one of those myself.
# Tears for souvenirs Are all you've left me... #
'65 was THE season,
my West End debut and...everything. Have you ever driven into town,
and all the lights have been green for you? You know?
It was one of those times.
Everything went just right in that season.
1965, I recorded Tears For Souvenirs and it went to Number One,
and it stayed in the charts for 18 weeks.
18 weeks - wonderful.
All the pop groups, they couldn't find things bad enough to say!
This was a middle of the road song, sung by...you know...
None of the rock'n'rollers could get in.
I kept them out for 18 weeks and I got a golden disc.
It's done two million now.
-# Once more to tears of happiness...
'What do you think of Mr Ken Dodd?'
-He's marvellous, he's a good lad.
-Hair is lovely!
We call it "her" in Liverpool, you see, Judy with the "fer her".
A fella went into one of those shops once in Liverpool
where they sell those minks and things,
and he says, "Give us one of those there hery coats."
"I beg your pardon, sir, what fur?"
He said, "Fur the Judy - who do you think?"
You do comedy as well, don't you?
-I've seen John, you do some...
-I just say lines.
-You say some very good lines!
-Oh, thank you.
That one about rattling the jewels, very good.
Have you worked gags into your act?
I don't know...most of our gags are made up,
so they either die or we keep 'em if they go down well.
That jewel thing, we thought of the night before...
So you'd like to do a bit more comedy?
Yeah, but it's so hard, isn't it?!
I imagine it's easier for four fellas than one.
It'll be easier when we get him in the group!
We'll leave it all up to him then.
'I don't think I was a natural. A reasonably funny face,
'but no, I wasn't the schoolboy... I wasn't the class comedian.
'No, no, no.
'What I was was completely stage-struck.
'Oh, yes. I was stage-struck.
'Once I'd seen the shows, I wanted to be on that stage.
'It really didn't matter what it was,
'whether I was a comedian, ventriloquist, juggler...
'So, yes, I think I was stage-struck.'
"But be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great,
"some achieve greatness...
"..and some have greatness thrust upon them.
"Thy fates open their hands, let thy blood and spirit embrace them,
"and to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
"cast thy humble slough, and appear fresh..."
People said, "You'll never do it, Doddy." "Course I will," I said.
"You'll never stick to the script."
I said, "What do you think I am? Do you think I'm stupid?"
When you're a comic, yes, OK,
you start off by telling jokes, but throughout your career,
you have to be many other things as well.
To be a successful entertainer,
you have to be a comedian, an orator,
you have to be an actor, a poet,
you have to be a creative writer,
you have to be an impressionist, be able to do dialects,
so you have to do about a dozen things to make the one entertainer.
'Have you got a word of advice
'for somebody who's starting out in show business?'
I'll come to you later, the boys first.
-Get a job, help... What do you say, Ringo?
Do your best, you know.
-That's grand, that.
OK, a word of advice from Mr Kenneth Dodd.
Well, I think anybody starting out in show business...
-Is that a serious question?
Anyone starting out in show business
should be like The Beatles and be original.
Originality is the secret of success.
Where do you go after you've done a season like you did at the Palladium?
In terms of, you know...
Oh, you go up after that. You go to Blackpool.
You play the Blackpool Opera House, which is even bigger than this.
This is big. This is very, very big.
I think the Liverpool Empire is just as big, or even a little bit bigger.
-I think this is 2,300, 2,500...
Well, the Liverpool Empire is, or was, 2,750,
and the Blackpool Opera House is 3,000...either 3,500 or 3,250,
so they're very big theatres, but beautifully built,
so that the acoustics and sightlines are absolutely brilliant.
# Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside
# Oh, I do like to be beside the sea... #
I...I started in 1954
and I played all the theatres in Britain
and I gradually built up my own...clientele
and even now I go to the same places year after year.
I've got like a window-cleaning round
and I just go along to wherever it is - north, south, east, west -
and the people who I've... entertained before
come back to see me, so I'm very, very fortunate
in that I don't have to rely on television or radio.
I think, in the early days, for the first 20 or 30 years,
I used to notch up about... oh, anything. 300, 350 shows a year.
Every day, in fact. Every day, and sometimes twice daily.
Sometimes three times.
But now I try to do about three or four a week.
At one time trains used to go,
"Tiddly-dee, tiddly-da, tiddly-dee, tiddly-doo, suck it yourself."
-But now it's...
-You don't know they're moving, do you?
-Well, sometimes they're not moving.
And you're Mr Virgin, are you?
-I am. I am indeed.
-Well, can I ask...?
It's not a complaint, it's just a suggestion.
Why can't we have some decent food?
-Why can't you have bacon butties?
Why can't we have some roast beef sandwiches?
Stuff like that, stuff that we know and recognise.
-Instead of some...things...
Things in wraps... that smell quite, er...
Well, get a morning train and you'll get your bacon butties.
-Will you? Oh.
So if you want a bacon butty you have to get the morning train?
-It's breakfast, really, yeah.
-Ohhh. Well, now, that's it.
-But we do have them!
-That's it. Because...you know...
Two o'clock in the afternoon... I mean...curry and crisps...
Not really your thing?
-Not very sustaining.
And you pay for it later on when you're doing your show.
-# Tears... #
# ..for souvenirs...
# Happiness... # Ohhh...
Because what's a holiday coast for the many
is a hard-working coast for the few
who play to packed houses in the theatres
or who work on the golden mile of sideshows and booths,
alleys and oyster bars between the north pier and central pier,
where there's adventure every yard.
And where Blackpool seems to offer everything that Paris can
and a breezy kind of humour all its own.
Everyone's enjoying themselves here at Blackpool down on the beach.
It's so crowded here in Blackpool, ladies and gentlemen,
the Corporation have had to send to Morecambe for more sea-goers!
My aunty Nelly, me big aunty Nelly, she was down on the beach.
Me big aunty Nelly. And the man from Blackpool Corporation said,
"Missus, would you mind getting off the beach?
"The tide's waiting to come in." Big!
Yesterday, she dived into the sea
and six trawlers were beached at the Isle of Man.
Everyone's here at Blackpool...
Some of the sideshows were marvellous.
There used to be a big sign - "It was her father's fault."
I never found out what it was, but it was her father's fault.
Then the other one, er... "Half woman, half fish."
There was another one that said, "Come and see a horse
"with a tail where its head should be."
And when you went inside - it was sixpence -
it was the horse the wrong way round in the cart.
I've been coming here now for years.
Every year. Every year since 1954 or 1955. Mm.
Every year, at one of the theatres in Blackpool, I've played here
and I've played with some really big stars.
# Oh, what a glorious thing to be
# A healthy grown-up busy, busy bee
# Making hay while time is ripe
# Building up the honeycomb just like tripe
# I'd like to be a busy, busy bee
# Being just as busy as a bee can be
# Flying all around the wild hedgerows... #
I cover it like that, you see, and what happens...
Too many bottles. Now...
# Sally, Sally
# Don't ever wander... #
I played the Opera House one year
and, on the Sunday concert, Gracie Fields was on.
She left all the flowers, all the bouquets. "You have them, Doddy."
You know, "I can't get them back to Capri."
So she left me all the flowers, that was nice.
It is the, er... It is the privilege of the...
Whoever occupies the number-one dressing room,
whoever is the star and number one, it is your privilege
to play host to another star who's coming in on the Sunday.
So it is good manners - and they do, they're very, very kind, very kind -
they move their stuff to one side,
usually put clean linen over them, so you don't touch them,
and then they'll leave you a nice note,
perhaps a bottle of champagne,
or a tin of lager, according to how big a star they are,
and...in most...you still...
even today though you have to bring your own soap.
# Sleigh bells ring Are you listenin'?
# Down the lane Snow is glistenin'
# A beautiful sight We're happy tonight... #
I've got better ones, but not so clean.
The other one I like is about the two little insects...
# Ta-ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta-ta Hyde Park Corner... #
One of old pros, as we used to call them, one of the old troopers,
showed me how to make up
and he told me to always put a blob of red in the corner of your eye.
That makes your eyes sparkle, makes your eyes...
And you give people the idea that here on the stage is a jester.
A jester. Um...a Merry Andrew.
A... "By Jove, missus, ha-ha!"
And that's what they want to see.
They want to see life, they want to see energy.
When you went to see a live show...
A live show is the best show you can possibly go to.
Cos when you go to a live show you don't just watch it, you're in it.
You take part in it, you are part of the show.
How are you part of it? What does that mean?
Because you...you interact with the entertainers on the stage.
There are two ways... two ways of telling a joke,
or two ways of entertaining an audience.
You can either do a show at them...
..or with them.
And with them is the best way.
I try to do a show with the audience.
Not sort of...not a lot of audience participation,
I don't mean community singin',
although we do a bit of that as well,
but...you know, make 'em feel that...
this show is just...for you.
And so I've got to try and plan
what sort of a show I'm going to do tonight, which, um...
People say, "How do you remember it?" You remember by key words.
In these, er, routines there's a key word which tells me,
you know, "That's... I'll do the motorcar routine.
"I'll do the, er...I'll do the honeymoon couple routine.
"I'll do the... the illuminations routine."
You've got to have good jokes, new jokes.
Not necessarily brand-new jokes,
because there's no such thing as an old joke,
only jokes that people have heard before.
The oldest joke in the world...
I'll probably be telling it tonight, in different ways.
The oldest joke in the world is the joke where the people in one village
think that the people in the next village are barmy. Mm.
You'll hear it come over the loudspeaker in a moment.
He'll say, "Half an hour, please."
That means you've got 35 minutes. Don't ask him why, it's 35.
Then he'll say, "Quarter of an hour, please," which is 20 minutes.
Then he'll say, "Overture and beginners,"
which is five minutes.
'Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr Ken Dodd!'
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
# ..more than my share of happiness
# To me this world is a wonderful place
# I'm the luckiest human in the human race
# I've got no silver and I've got no gold
# But I've got happiness in my soul
# Happiness to me is an ocean tide
# A sunset fading on a mountainside
# A big old heaven full of stars above
# When I'm in the arms of the one I love
# Oh, happiness, happiness
# The greatest gift that I possess
# I thank the Lord that I've been blessed
# With more than my share of happiness
# I've got more than my share of happiness! #
How was the show tonight?
Well, it was...it was a good show tonight, yeah.
I thought we were all... I thought we worked well together.
The audience and me, they were very responsive,
it's now...let's see... What time is it?
It's one o'clock in the morning,
I feel...I feel pleasantly shattered, you know.
Tired but...yeah. It was a good show. Um...
Tried a few new gags out. They went quite well.
Tried about half a dozen and four of them went quite well.
Two of them hit the deck,
but that's all right, they won't be in next week.
So...yeah, it was a good show, yeah.
-Happiness for you!
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Happiness! Happiness...for you!
Well, that's the comedian's job, isn't it?
With one of these.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
A tribute to Liverpudlian comic Ken Dodd, in which he discusses his career and the influences of his comedy style.
Features film clips of his early performances and footage of him on tour in more recent times.