Sir Ken Dodd – master of tickling sticks, Diddy Men and tattifilarious comedy – has died, his publicist has said.
The comedian passed away just days after leaving hospital and marrying his partner of 40 years, Anne Jones. He was 90.
His publicist Robert Holmes described him as “one of the last music hall greats”.
“With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety. He was a comedy legend and genius,” he said.
Mr Holmes added: “He asked Anne if she wanted to marry. They got the registrar and were married in the house on Friday.
“He died two days later on Mother’s Day. Anne is obviously very upset. They had been together for 40 years. It’s a love story to beat them all.”
Dodd continued to perform right through to his later years, bringing the energy and stamina of a man half his age to his madcap routines in theatres across the UK.
Even when he was taken to hospital for a “minor operation” on New Year’s Eve in 2007, it came just hours after completing a four-hour sell-out gig at Liverpoool’s Philharmonic Hall.
But behind the hair, teeth and offbeat humour dwelt a mass of contradictions and insecurities.
His carefully guarded private life received an unwelcome airing in 1989 when he endured a five-week trial accused of tax fraud.
The trial transformed Liverpool Crown Court into a sell-out theatre, with fellow comics Eric Sykes and Roy Hudd called as character witnesses.
Having clocked up 35 years in showbusiness, Dodd told the court: “Since I am stripped naked in this court, I might as well tell you the lot.”
He said: “I am not mean, but I am nervous of money, nervous of having it, nervous of not having it,” and described money as a yardstick of success – “important only because I have nothing else”.
His counsel described him as a fantasist stamped with lifelong eccentricities – such as keeping love letters in a safety deposit box and hoarding £336,000 in the attic – due to a close-knit family upbringing.
The entertainer was acquitted following a brilliant defence by George Carman QC, and would later joke publicly about the case.
Dodd left school at 14 and worked with his brother Bill, heaving Arley cobbles and Houlton kitchen nuts for six years as part of his father’s business.
But in his spare time, the former choirboy was singing and developing a stand-up comic routine at working men’s clubs. He would describe himself as “Professor Yaffle Chuckabutty. Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter”.
The Theatre Royal, Nottingham, saw his debut in 1954 as Professor Chuckabutty, and within two years he was topping the bill at Blackpool, with bits such as the famous Diddy Men, the Broken Biscuit Repair Works, the Jam Butty Mines, the Moggy Ranch and the Treacle Wells.
This was followed by numerous BBC series, including The Ken Dodd Show, Beyond Our Ken and Ken Dodd’s Laughter Show, and he entered the big time in 1965 with the longest-ever run at the London Palladium (42 weeks).
During the 1960s, he entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever – 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours.
He was awarded an OBE in 1982 and was dubbed a knight by the Duke of Cambridge in 2017 – the year of his 90th birthday.
He spent more than six weeks in the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital earlier this year, following a chest infection, leaving at the end of February.
Fellow Liverpudlian Claire Sweeney described Dodd as a “legend and an inspiration”.
Actor John Challis, who played Boycie in comedy television series Only Fools And Horses, tweeted: “So sorry to hear we have lost Ken Dodd.I met him once and I’ve never forgotten it. Gawd bless ‘im.”
Comedian Dara O Briain tweeted: “So happy I got to meet him once, and more importantly, saw him do one of his incredible 5 hour shows. He was an education to watch and, afterwards, at 1.30 am, he had beers with me in the dressing room and talked showbiz. A privilege, and a loss. RIP.”
Here are some of Dodd’s best-known jokes…
– “I haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law for 18 months. I don’t like to interrupt her.”
– “Men’s legs have a terribly lonely life – standing in the dark in your trousers all day.”
– “It’s ten years since I went out of my mind. I’d never go back.”
– “The trouble with Freud is that he never played the Glasgow Empire on a Saturday night after Rangers and Celtic had both lost.”
– “The French didn’t object to British beef in 1940.”
– “Honolulu: it’s got everything: sand for the children, sun for the wife, sharks for the wife’s mother.”
– “How do you make a blonde laugh on a Sunday? Tell her a joke on a Wednesday.”
– “How many men does it take to change a toilet roll? Nobody knows. It’s never been tried.”
– “Fifty-five years in show business, ladies and gentlemen. That’s a hell of a long time to wait for a laugh.”
– “My act is very educational. I heard a man leaving the other night, saying: ‘Well, that taught me a lesson’.”