Sir Ken Dodd: five little-known facts about the comedy legend, who has died aged 90

Stand-up and music-hall star was famed for charity work and the length of his shows

Ken dodd
Ken Dodd during his 1960s heyday
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Liverpudlian comedian Sir Ken Dodd has died at the age of 90, just two days after marrying his partner of 40 years.

The stand-up and music hall star was best known for his “wild hair, wild eyes” and for brandishing a “feather duster he called a ‘tickling stick’”, says The Times.

Announcing his passing, Dodd’s publicist, Robert Holmes, said: “To my mind, he was one of the last music-hall greats. There is no one else that comes close.

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“He passed away in the home that he was born in over 90 years ago. He’s never lived anywhere else. It’s absolutely amazing.

“With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety. He was a comedy legend and a genius.”

If the “number of catchphrases is a mark of a comedian’s success”, said a BBC profile in 2013, Dodd has “done well, with such trademark sayings as ‘how tickled I am’ and ‘by jove, missus’ and nonsense concoctions including ‘tattyfilarious’ and ‘discomknockerated’”.

Here are five other things you may not know about the late, great funnyman.

He left school at 14

Despite getting a scholarship to a well-regarded grammar school in the Liverpool suburb of Childwall, Dodd left full-time education at the age of 14 to help his father sell coal. It was around this time that he became interested in show business, after seeing an advert, in a comic, that read: “Fool your teachers, amaze your friends - send 6d in stamps and become a ventriloquist!” He duly sent off the stamps and received a book on ventriloquy. His father then bought him a ventriloquist’s dummy, and the young Dodd began putting on shows at a local orphanage.

Dodd had one of the best-selling song of the 1960s

Dodd was more than just a joke teller. In 1965, he hit the top of the charts with his take on the song Tears, written by lyricist Frank Capano and composer Billy Uhr. It was the third biggest-selling single of the decade, and remains one of the UK’s best-selling singles of all time.

Dodd was chosen to perform the song on A Jubilee Of Music, a celebration of the key pop successes of the Queen’s first 25 years as Britain’s monarch, screened on BBC One on 31 December 1976.

Dodd holds a Guinness World Record

Dodd was “most famous for his longevity – the length of his career, the 42-week span of his record-breaking run at the London Palladium in 1965, but (most of all) for the duration of his performances”, says The Guardian. He even earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest ever joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours, undertaken at a Liverpool theatre in the 1960s. Audiences were brought into the show in shifts so as not to become fatigued.

He was a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats

As well as being knighted in 2017, Dodd was awarded a string of other honours over the years, including an OBE and an honorary fellowship from the University of Chester. But perhaps the most notable was his induction into the Grand Order of Water Rats, the exclusive British entertainment industry fraternity and charitable organisation.

Norma Hornby, manager of youth charity The Canal Boat Adventure Project, of which Doddy was patron for 39 years, last year told the Daily Mirror: “The work Ken has done for children and young people in deprived communities made them determined for Ken to be knighted.

“He’s one of the most generous men in show business. He’s quietly supported more than 100 charities and he and his long-term partner, Anne, are very committed to making a difference to ­people’s lives in poorer communities.”

Dodd had a long-running feud with the Inland Revenue

In 1989, Dodd “faced the possibility of disgrace”, says the BBC, when he stood trial at Liverpool Crown Court on eight charges of tax fraud “spanning a period of 15 years and involving £825,000”.

During the case it emerged that he had 20 bank accounts in Jersey and the Isle of Man, and made regular flights to deposit money in them that was not declared to the Inland Revenue. Dodd was eventually acquitted, but not without being asked to pay a reported £2m in backdated tax.

Just two days before his death, Dodd married his partner of 40 years, Anne Jones - a move that some say was his final riposte to the taxman, since it means she won’t have to pay inheritance tax.

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