Ken Dodd

Ken Dodd

Date of birth: 08-11-1927

Dodd started his career as a ventriloquist - and indeed still uses the Dicky Mint dummy in his act.

However, his success came through his exaggerated on-stage persona - the manic hairstyle, protruding teeth and, of course, trademark tickling stick - combined with a relentless stream of one-liners, peppered with nonsense words like 'tattifilarious', that can - and do - entertain audiences for hours.

He built his reputation as a live performer on the variety stage, and famously logs audience reactions to jokes every night, building up a picture of what plays well where.

His career was boosted with appearances on TV, often just guest roles, but his bizarre appearance would always stick in the mind. He also has a penchant for sickly ballads, as well as his signature tune Happiness, recording several albums of love songs and notching up 19 top 40 hits, including the 1965 chart-topper Tears.

Dodd became embroiled in a tax-dodging case in the Eighties, and was eventually cleared, but the case revealed much about Dodd's eccentric private life, too.

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© David A Ellis / Creative Commons 3.0

Ken Dodd helps build a new theatre

His charity chips in £700,000 to Playhouse North

Ken Dodd is helping to build a new theatre from beyond the grave.

A charity he set up will put £700,000 towards build a Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, Merseyside, it has been announced today.

Lady Dodd will appear on BBC One’s The One Show tonight to confirm the donation.

Lady Dodd

She said: ‘Ken’s real love was the theatre and Liverpool. He set up the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation some years ago and I’m now able to use the money in that foundation - and his legacy - to fund a lot of different and wonderful projects, one of which is this Shakespeare North Playhouse theatre.

‘Ken was approached a couple of years before he passed, and he was absolutely delighted to be able to help with this project.’

The redevelopment, which is due to open in 2022, will cost £24million and include a ‘performance garden’, which Lady Dodd described as ‘like a mini amphitheatre, people will sit on the steps, and Ken loved amphitheatres when we used to travel around Europe.

‘One of the ideas I had was that famous phrases from Shakespeare should appear on the steps as you go up, interspersed with "how tickled I am", "tattyfilarious", "plumptious" – a few of Ken’s well-known phrases."

Dodd played Malvolio in Twelfth Night at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1971, and as Yorrick - in non-speaking flashback - in Kenneth Branagh’s movie version of Hamlet in 1996.

From the mid-1590s to 1609, Prescot was home to the Prescot Playhouse, a purpose-built Shakespearean theatre, believed to be the only purpose-built theatre outside London at the time.

Lady Dodd, will also launch a new playwriting competition for young people, As You Write It, when she appears on tonight’s show to confirm the £700,000 donation, up from a previously announced £250,000.

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Published: 19 Aug 2020

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