Feature on artist George Paul Sainsbury in the special 50th anniversary edition.
By Tim Saunders
“Never live in the past even if it’s cheaper,” quips Sir Ken Dodd, who celebrated his landmark 90th birthday in November. He reveals that he will continue to do two gigs every week and 100 a year. “I used to do 400.”
“Always look to the future,” he recommends. “My toenails are 90 but my brain is 21. When you wake up in the morning at 90 you thank God for allowing you to live so long and for giving you such an adventurous life. I’m very grateful.”
A self-confessed chatterbox the nonagenarian still introduces his audiences to six new gags per show. “If two or three get a laugh you’re doing very well,” admits Ken, who returns to the stage for the sheer thrill of the experience. “You can never predict an audience. You have to learn to read them very very quickly. There is a lot of creativity in being a comedian.”
The king of the one-liners looks forward to doing shows “because I love playing an audience”. “Some men go fishing and some men play snooker, I’m stage struck, I just love doing shows; it’s my life.”
Knighted earlier in the year by Prince William at Buckingham Palace has added to Ken’s happiness. “It hasn’t changed me at all - I am the same Ken Dodd that I always was; I still put the same underpants on everyday… well not the same underpants. It is delightful. My family and friends all think it is wonderful. What I am very pleased about is that they have given this recognition to someone from show business; my type of show business; I am a variety entertainer. It really means a variety of skills. I’m here to fly the flag.”
Full to bursting with infectious enthusiasm and a zest for life, he says: “I’d like to live to be 190 because there are so many things to see, so many people to meet, so many things I’d like to do and places to visit.”
Another ambition is for a Ken Dodd Archive because with his love for the written word, he adores books. “I get told off; if I buy another book my fine lady threatens that she will have me put away! I must have 100,000 books. I have a house and two little cottages and they’re all full of them. I have a passion for buying books particularly anything to do with show business. Some of which I have read and some that I plan to read and some that I will never read.”
As a youngster he was offered a junior reporter’s job at the Liverpool Evening Express but a career in journalism was not as appealing as comedy.
Aged 14, Ken was intrigued to discover how a joke was produced. “A joke has a surprise ending; a tag we call it. You are drawn into psychology and you start reading all the books on it by the philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Freud. Now Freud did very well with his jokes. He had a book called Jokes and their Relationship to the Unconscious. Freud came up with this wonderful formula: the acquisition of the psychic economy. Unfortunately, Freud never played Saturday night at the Empire, which makes a big difference believe me! Practically every psychiatrist and every psychologist that drew breath from Freud, Schopenhauer - there’s a whole list - they all have a different theory about why we laugh and it’s a fascinating and obsessive kind of study.”
He has lived at Oak House, Knotty Ash (built in 1782) all his life. Passed down from his grandmother, he has enhanced the interior and plans to do the same with the garden.
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