One of Liverpool’s most-cherished sons, Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born in November 1927 in the Knotty Ash area of the city. Throughout his illustrious career, Dodd has been known for his charismatic and often flamboyant on-stage persona, leading to him becoming one of the most popular comedians of the 20th century, and nothing short of a national treasure.
Famed for his trademark outlandish, red, frizzy hair and distinctive, protruding teeth, Ken has risen from the Liverpool comedy circuit to national (and even international) recognition. Throughout a glittering career lasting over 50 years in showbiz, Ken Dodd continues to put Liverpool on the map as one of Europe’s leading cities for the arts and entertainment.
Indeed, since his first show in Nottingham back in 1954, he has gone on to sell over 100 million records of his own brand of comedy music, in addition to notable appearances on stage and on Television as one of the front-running British comedians of our time.
His much-celebrated stand-up routine was based on quick fire one-liners and memorable gags, with Ken setting a world record for the longest ever continuous joke telling session, covering over 1,500 jokes in a set lasting a little over 3 and a half hours. Not one to ever rest on his laurels, Ken also holds several other world and UK records for his performances over the last 50 or so years.
From a working class background, Ken Dodd showed a keen interest in entertaining throughout his early life, with his first foray into showbiz as a ventriloquist seeing him work with local community projects and small events. However, it was until he was in his mid-twenties that Ken would find his permanent home, as a stand-up comedian topping the bill at comedy shows in Liverpool and beyond.
In the late 80s, Dodd rose to even greater fame off the back of a much publicized tax-evasion case, where he was charged (and later acquitted) with attempting to cover up his financial affairs from the then Inland Revenue for the alleged purposes of avoiding a hefty tax bill. Not one to shy away from the limelight, Dodd turned his high profile trial into material for his future shows, and leveraged the heightened publicity to send his already much-celebrated career stratospheric.
While Ken Dodd’s career has understandably slowed down in later years as he moves into semi-retirement, he still nonetheless makes occasional appearances on TV and in stand-up, with his performance at the Glasgow Pavilion in April 2009 a sell-out show. And with inside sources reporting a cameo role in BBC1 soap Eastenders over the coming year, it looks like Ken will be back on our screens before too long.
Ken Dodd has received various honours in recognition of his long, successful career, and the often understated impact he’s had on British culture over the last 50 years. Having been honoured both by The University of Chester, Liverpool John Moores University and even the Queen, Ken Dodd is one of Liverpool’s most successful stand-up comedians, and a character that continues to entertain fans worldwide to this day.
Photo By University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.