Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Sir Ken Dodd: King of Comedy

The title of national treasure is oft awarded by the media, but few recipients can have been more worthy than Ken Dodd who has died at the age of 90. He was truly tattifilarious, a plumptious comedian who tickled our chuckles muscles for more than 60 years.

Like many of the old school of comedians of whom he was the last and arguably greatest, Ken was a great teller of mother in law jokes. But his humour was never wantonly cruel, it was always simple good old British mickey taking, not least of himself. Indeed it was often simply silly.

He was never a great TV comedian. His style simply didn't work so well in the more artificial environment of a TV studio. He loved playing in theatres, feeding off the audience reaction, enjoying the waves of laughter, enjoying torturing people with his rapid fire, unrelenting stream of jokes that were corny but hilarious. The great joy of Ken Dodd was that if one gag did not tickle you he would have another one along seconds later. And then another. And then another.

You got your money's worth at a Ken Dodd gig. He would often be the last to leave.

But he was the consummate comedy and entertainment professional. He studied comedy. He studied how well his jokes were received. He fine tuned his jokes according to regional preferences. He played in more or less every theatre around the UK, most of them numerous times. He was not a part of our culture that could have been exported, but that just meant that we kept him to ourselves.

He famously was charged with tax evasion in the 1980s but was acquitted by the jury who believed his defence team's argument that he simply was not a man very well versed in the intricacies of money. He didn't care about it. It was simply a metric for his success and popularity. He had to pay the taxman a huge sum after the case, but he turned it all into a joke. The country never stopped loving him.

The BBC paid lavish and entirely over the top tribute to Bruce Forsyth over the weekend. Ken Dodd was ten times as talented and much more loved. Few people will have a bad word to say about Ken. He was just someone who loved to perform, loved to make people laugh, never took himself too seriously, but always took what he did seriously. He had a keen sense of the absurd and personified the great British sense of humour. He was finally knighted just last year. It left him plumptiously discumknockerated.

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