Sir Ken Dodd, legend of comedy, has died aged 90

His wife of two days, Anne Jones, says the Liverpudlian comic ‘lived to perfect his art’

The entertainer died on Sunday 11th March 2018 in the house in which he was born in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, his publicist said. His wife, Anne Jones, was at his bedside.

On Monday morning, a pile of tributes of flowers and feather dusters – or “tickling sticks” – had begun to grow outside his house.

Jones said she first met the comedian when she was part of the Ken Dodd Christmas show in 1961 at Manchester Opera House.

“I have had the supreme joy and privilege of working and living with him as partner for the past 40 years,” she said. “The world has lost a most life-enhancing, brilliant, creative comedian, with an operatically trained voice, who just wanted to make people happy.

“He lived to perfect his art and entertain his live and adoring audiences. I’ve been overwhelmed by love and affection, which I’ve already received from dear friends and the public and I thank you all for being here.”

The comedians Dawn French and David Walliams were among those to eulogise Dodd.

Dawn French

What a wonderful day for sticking a cucumber through your neighbour’s letter box and shouting ‘the aliens have landed!’ Tatty bye Doddy. And thanks . #doddy

David Walliams

Comedy flowed through him like water. RIP Sir Ken Dodd.

“Farewell to my fellow Liverpudlian, the tattyfilarious Ken Dodd,” tweeted Sir Paul McCartney.

Sandi Toksvig

#RIPKenDodd   Best dinner companion I ever sat next to. Don’t think I said a word.  Just laughed and laughed and tried not to drown in my soup.  Thank you for the genius x

The comedian Russ Abbot said: “Sadly another legend has passed away. An icon, a one-off and a true professor of comedy. One of the greatest. How tickled I am to have known him.”

Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, said a book of condolence would be opened and flags would fly at half-mast.

Dara Ó Briain, the television presenter and comedian, tweeted: “Ah, Ken Dodd has died. So happy I got to meet him once, and more importantly, saw him do one of his incredible five-hour shows.

“He was an education to watch and, afterwards, at 1.30am, he had beers with me in the dressing room and talked showbiz. A privilege, and a loss. RIP.”

Dodd was known for his lengthy standup shows and his tickling sticks. “To my mind, he was one of the last music hall greats. There is no one else that comes close,” said his publicist, Robert Holmes.

“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.”

Dodd, who was also known for his unruly hair and prominent teeth, performed his last show on 28 December, at the auditorium in the Liverpool Echo Arena.

All his 2018 dates were cancelled when he was treated in hospital for six weeks for a chest infection.

He had promised to carry on when he left hospital on 27 February. “I’m going to teach my legs how to work again – they’ve forgotten, you know – and once I’ve recovered myself I’ll get back to doing the job, which is the only job I’ve ever had,” he said at the time.

“While I was in here, I wrote some new jokes, so it should be all right.”

In the 1960s, Dodd entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever: 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours.

His TV shows included the Ken Dodd Show and the Ken Dodd Laughter Show. He had the longest ever run at the London Palladiumof 42 weeks, in 1965.

He was also a well-known singer: in 1964 he released his first single, Happiness, followed by the smash hit Tears in 1965. Dodd was knighted in honour of his decades-long career and his charity work in March last year.

His career began when his father bought him a Punch and Judy set for his eighth birthday; he began charging school friends twopence to sit on boxes and watch the puppets. It was a penny to stand at the back and a cigarette card for the hard-up.

In his spare time, the former choirboy sang and developed a standup routine at working men’s clubs. The scripts were written by his father, the costumes prepared by his mother. He described himself as “Professor Yaffle Chuckabutty. Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter.”

The Theatre Royal, Nottingham, was where he made his debut in 1954 as Professor Chuckabutty, and within two years he was topping the bill in Blackpool.

In 1989, he was forced to open up about his private life as he went through a five-week trial on allegations of tax fraud, ending with his acquittal.

Dodd told the court: “Since I am stripped naked in this court, I might as well tell you the lot. I am not mean, but I am nervous of money, nervous of having it, nervous of not having it.” He described money as a yardstick of success, saying it was “important only because I have nothing else”.

The trial transformed Liverpool crown court into a sell-out theatre, with fellow comics Eric Sykes and Roy Hudd called as character witnesses.

Dodd’s counsel described him as a fantasist stamped with lifelong eccentricities – such as keeping love letters in a safety deposit box and hoarding £336,000 in the attic – owing to a close-knit family upbringing.

Last year, as he turned 90, he told the Guardian a comedian needed to “build a bridge” to the audience. “You can’t do a show at an audience – you have to do a show with an audience and structure the act so that you start with the ‘hello’ gags, then the topicals, then the surreal stuff.

“Eventually, you can go wherever you want and say whatever comes into your head.

It was very true that he would be on stage for 5 hours non-stop joke telling. The last time we saw him was at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, a few years ago. He came on stage at 7.30pm and finally finished just after 12.30am. As one of the newspapers put it this week: “In the end, only death could get him off stage.”


Ten of Ken Dodd’s best jokes

My agent died at 90. I always think he was 100 and kept 10% for himself.

I do all the exercises every morning in front of the television – up, down, up, down, up, down. Then the other eyelid.

How many men does it take to change a toilet roll? Nobody knows. It’s never been tried.

What a beautiful day for dashing down to Trafalgar Square and chucking a bucket of whitewash over the pigeons and saying ‘There you are, how do you like it?’

I have kleptomania. But when it gets bad, I take something for it.

What a beautiful day for Dame Nellie Melba to drop a choc-ice down her tights and say ‘How’s that for a knickerbocker glory?’

You’ve got to be a comedian to live there. I call it Mirthy-side.

What a lovely day for knocking on a TV policeman’s door and saying: ‘Hello Mrs Savalas. Have you got a licence for your Telly?’

Did any of us, in our wildest dreams, think we’d live long enough to see the end of the DFS sale?

My dad knew I was going to be a comedian. When I was a baby, he said, ‘Is this a joke?’


What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable. ~Anonymous


Happiness is…(or was) THE KEN DODD SHOW


“Tonight when you get home, put a handful of ice cubes down your wife’s nightie and say: ‘There’s the chest freezer you always wanted’.” – KEN DODD


Love is…being naughty but nice


HAPPINESS – Ken Dodd No.31 6th August 1964

TEARS – Ken Dodd No.1 30th September 1965

LOVE IS LIKE A VIOLIN – Ken Dodd No.8 25th August 1960