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Tears and Happiness

Master of mirth Ken Dodd exercises the chuckle muscles in his special 08 show on Liverpool's legacy of comedy. Angie Sammons joins the St George's Hall marathon

Written by . Published on April 2nd 2008.


Tears and Happiness

THERE is a little imp inside the people of Liverpool. And each of us has it. It comes from an extra gene, a funny gene, that makes us love to laugh.

Ken Dodd came out with that, and a whole lot more, on showbiz, humour, Liverpool's sense of absurdity and the people who made him the man he is, during A Celebration of Liverpool's Laughter Makers at St George's Hall on Tuesday night.

“Michael Parkinson once asked me:
'Is Dodd your real name?' 'No,' I replied, 'It's an anagram'"

It might have been April Fool's Day, but I believed him, about the imp, I mean. Doddy is, after all, the ageing sage of Knotty Ash, and, during this mere four-hour session, the chucklemeister and OBE recipient (where is that knighthood?), delivered this as one of the few “serious” reflections in an affectionate show where there were no Tears, only Happiness.

Doddy is 80 in 08, as were a few of the audience in the Small Concert Room, an intimate space for a laughter maker to reach out and tickle a crowd.

“Are you still having sex over 65?” he asks them. “Then you should pull over onto the hard shoulder.”

And tickle he did, with songs and sketches and jokes old and new, many of them aired during a private, invitation-only test run at Pauline Daniels' Actors Studio last week.

“What's your name?” he inquired of a white-haired lady. “Pat? Well don't get that embroidered onto a T shirt.”

The whole premise of the two-night event, organised by the Liverpool Culture Company with proceeds going to various Merseyside charities, is to flag up the other merchants of Mersey mirth and get to the bottom of what makes the people here tick.

This takes a circuitous route (think looping the loop on Queens Drive, via Otterspool, to end up back at Bootle when all you wanted to do was go to Knotty Ash) and thus the first half meanders around the core subject.

“We are here tonight to discuss Liverpool comedy and we will be looking at some of the laughter makers,” Doddy said more than once, before going off on a tangent of glorious gags about his life, many self deprecating.

“I've been doing this for 50 years,” (applause) “and before people had telly and karaoke and council meetings to keep them entertained, they had public executions. This is similar.”

Dodd, of course, is famous for his marathon shows. If he had appeared at the 08 opening at the Arena we would all still be there now.

“What time do you want to go home tonight?” he asks a young man in the front row. “Er, two o'clock?” came the reply.

“Why do you want to go home in the interval?”

No one believes this is a new riposte, but it is delivered with all the timing of an atomic clock, or an atomic kitten as Doddy might, himself, say in an occasional nod to the 21st century, and it gets a massive laugh.

Not the biggest of the night, though. That is reserved for a study of scouse accents, a long joke about his “Uncle Bob”. Sliced down the middle in a circular saw accident, Bob recovers to appear on Stars In Their Eyes with the immortal words: “Tonight Matthew, I am going to be.... Simon and half-uncle.”

Curiously, there are no “by joves,” and nor did he say “what a beautiful day it is, missus”, not once. Many of the punchlines were missing too - owing to a lousy sound system. Those with hearing aids were all right though. They had the loop to keep them, well, in the loop.

Mick The Marmaliser, Nigel Ponsonby Smallpiece, Wee Hamish McDiddy and Harry Cott, were also absent. Not so Dicky Mint and Dr Chucklebutty: “What is the lowest you have ever weighed?” the imaginary quack asks. “7lbs 4 ounces,” Doddy replies.

The second half gets down to business with a detailed video homage to the Squire's four Liverpool godfathers: Arthur Askey; Ted Ray, Robb Wilton and Tommy Handley, ITMA king (“It's That Man Again,” chorus the crowd).

The cracks are fewer now (“Michael Parkinson once asked me: 'Is Dodd your real name?' 'No,' I replied, 'It's an anagram.'”) and you can't help but feel that this section goes a wee bit flat, simply because people have gone to look at KD himself.

He is, after all, something of a living legend, and while it's amusing to be reminded of Askey's Busy Bee routine, watching some archive footage is rather like indulging a new best friend who sits you down and tells you: “You'll like this, honest.”

Nevertheless, this entertainer remains an utter professional and a great moment is his thundering and manic Road To Mandalay routine, from years ago, which shows him at the peak of his physical comedy powers. A little frailer now, Doddy was seated as it played on screen, but his arms could not resist unconsciously waving to mirror the actions.

A rendition of Happiness brought the singalong crowd to its feet for an ovation of what we all thought was Tatty Bye.

But as a postscript Lord Mayor Paul Clark appeared and made a presentation, there was a backs-to-the-audience photo-opportunity, the house lights went up and the audience shifted on its feet.

Another five minutes and the great comedian was then embroiled in drawing the raffle. For anyone else, it could have been an Archie Rice moment, but Dodd's eyes were still bright as saucers and he was up for it, as the crowd rubbed their own.

Then, finally, tickled, they slowly trickled away.

8/10

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AnonymousApril 2nd 2008.

Wonderful man our Doddy. What joy and laughter he has brought and still brings to everyone who has the privilege of meeting, hearing and watching him.I met him at Southport Flower Show a few years ago and I said that it was through his announcement at one of his shows that I met my husband. He said:"I don't give money back"!

D'ya Ken?April 2nd 2008.

I wasn't able to get a ticket for Doddy (presumably they had all gone to mates of the Culture Company) and I am really sorry I missed seeing the living legend on what may be one of his last marathon outings. So thanks for providing such a detailed, interesting and insightful report. I particularly tittered at the sex over 65 crack. He will be sorely missed when he shuffles off the stage - there has been no one quite like him. Thanks Doddy!

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