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's tax drama could be heading to ITV

Sitcom writer pens a script

ITV is planning to make a drama out of Ken Dodd’s notorious tax evasion trial.

Lawyer turned writer Clive Coleman has completed a script based on the 1989 trial that threw an unwelcome light on the notoriously private comedian’s eccentric approach to money.

The script had been commissioned by the broadcaster via leading production company Hat Trick, makers of Derry Girls, Kate & Koji and Have I Got News For You.

Coleman – who was the BBC’s legal correspondent for a decade from 2010 –  previously wrote the barrister sitcom Chambers starring  John Bird, James Fleet and Sarah Lancashire while his other credits include  Dead Ringers, Spitting Image, Smith and Jones.

Now he has turned his attention to the headline-grabbing three week Ken Dodd case, and the what it exposed about the comedian.

The prosecution was led by Brian Leveson, the QC who would later lead the inquiry into press standards. He revealed that Diddy Men  who had appeared in Dodd's stage act were often played by local children from stage schools, and were never paid. 

The court also heard that Dodd kept little money in his bank, preferring to stash £336,000 in cash (equivalent to £855,000 in today’s money) stashed in suitcases in his attic. 

When asked by the judge, ‘What does £100,000 in a suitcase feel like?’, Dodd replied, ‘The notes are very light, M’Lord.’

Dodd was represented by George Carman QC, who in court quipped: ‘Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants.’

Dodd was acquitted, and rather than damage his reputation, the case enhanced it, and immediately played a nine-month residency  at London Palladium.

Jokes about the case also became a staple of his act. he would introduce himself with the words: ‘Good evening, my name is Kenneth Arthur Dodd; singer, photographic playboy and failed accountant.’

He would also quip: ‘Self assessment? I invented that’; claim that he shouldn’t have to pay Income Tax as he lived by the seaside; and comment that when income tax was introduced it was just 2p in the £1, followed by the punchline: ‘I thought it still was.’

If Doddy makes it to screen, it would be the second TV drama featuring Carman. His defence of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe on conspiracy to murder charges was dramatised in A Very English Scandal, when the lawyer was played by Adrian Scarborough.

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Published: 24 Mar 2021

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