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Obituaries

Madcap British comedian Ken Dodd dies, aged 90

The entertainer, who refused to retire, was known for his ability to tell jokes virtually non-stop

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 6:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 8:55pm

British comedian Ken Dodd, well-known to the country’s television audiences for his spiky hair, buck teeth and “tickling stick”, has died aged 90, his publicist said on Monday.

Dodd achieved fame in theatres in the 1950s with a madcap humour and a relentless barrage of off-the-cuff ripostes. His style, which later brought him television and radio fame, owed much to music hall tradition.

“To my mind, he was one of the last music hall greats,” his publicist Robert Holmes said in a statement.

The Liverpool-born comedian was a tireless live performer who drew up a “giggle map” of Britain, telling him what made people laugh in different parts of the country.

He made his first professional appearance in 1954 and a decade later made his debut in London’s West End, where he staged a record-breaking 42-week show at the London Palladium.

Dodd was also holder of a Guinness World Record for telling 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours.

Dodd’s success drew the interest of the taxman, and in 1989 he endured a five-week trial accused of fraud.

He was acquitted, and later made jokes about it.

Towards the end of a career which earned him a knighthood, he chose not to retire and had been due to perform in the northern English town of Bolton this month before he was taken ill.

“I’m told that before I go out on stage, I look my age,” he told The Guardian newspaper in November. “Once I’m there, I suddenly turn into a 32-year-old.”

Early in his career, Dodd was described on show bills as ‘Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty – Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter’.

He also had a singing career, with more than a dozen hits in Britain including Tears which topped the British charts in 1965, selling over a million copies.

Dodd died on Sunday in the house where he was born, just two days after marrying his partner of 40 years, Anne Jones.

“He’s never lived anywhere else. It’s absolutely amazing,” Holmes said. “With Ken gone, the lights have been turned out in the world of variety. He was a comedy legend and a genius.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse