A chat and a half with Ken Dodd

Ken Dodd
Ken Dodd

The last of the great music-hall entertainers, Ken Dodd, is back in Leamington on Sunday January 24, writes Clive Peacock.

He was much missed last year but he will arrive this year with a friendly warning: “The show will start at 6pm, giving people a chance to get home before Monday morning.”

In our telephone interview he was keen to stress his Happiness Show is “a proper variety show giving everyone an opportunity to exercise their chuckle muscles whilst Ken tries to help people feel happy”.

At 88 he seems as lively as ever, full of quick, witty asides – and with more than 35 gigs planned this year, he continues to be a very busy man. I asked him the question he least expected: “Tell me about the ‘tickling sticks’!” Without hesitation he proudly told me they are produced in Cumbria – “a bit damp at the moment but made from quick drying pure virgin wool”.

Ken doesn’t “do a lot of politics” but was drawn to comment on the Chair of the Environment Agency working “under duress” in Barbados whilst the North of England struggled with floods. He reminded me of a chance meeting he had with Margaret Thatcher after a visit she made to the Halewood car plant. “As the daughter of a shopkeeper, she knew a thing or two about keeping customers happy. That’s my job, too – something I love doing, plus helping to keep the brain going, this is the best possible reward for me”.

There is no sign of the brain being anything but in top form and he clearly looks forward to each ‘gig’, although he admits “the recovery time takes a bit longer!” When asked where the new jokes come from, he refers to a bride’s approach to a wedding; “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”. I can confirm the ‘blue’ joke is seldom, if ever, necessary.

Tickets cost £23. Call 334418 or visit www.royalspacentreandtownhall.co.uk