On the 22nd of November, my associate, Ben, and I, went to see Ken Dodd live. Somehow, we managed to live through the ordeal and we are alive to tell you about it. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, it was very, very good. So why, you’re probably wondering, was it an ordeal? Well, I’ll tell you.
Ken Dodd, for those of you who don’t know, is a Liverpudlian comedian. He is known for his mad look (frizzy hair and big teeth) and for carrying his ‘tickle stick’. He has had 19 top 40 hits in the UK Singles Charts, including Tears, which sold over one million copies. He started his career in the mid 1950’s and today, at 87, he’s still going strong and is as good as always. Truly, Ken Dodd, is a British national treasure. He’s also known for his long shows. His very. Long. Shows.
The show started at 7pm, and five hours later, when we left, it was still going on. FIVE HOURS. Now normally I wouldn’t have minded, but at 9:30 that morning, Ben and I had gone to a comic con in Birmingham – footage of which can be found on the Gallifrey Times website . We stayed at the comic con until about 5pm, before leaving to go back to Ben’s for a quick meal of leftover pizza, then heading out to Ken Dodd’s show.
Ken Dodd was great, although, to begin with, I was too tired from earlier to pay attention to his jokes, and with his one-liners coming at us in rapid succession, it was tricky to pay any attention at all. Poor Ben had his eyes shut for the first hour. Anyway, some time passed and I thought “There’s not going to be an intermission is there? I better go to the toilet.” About half an hour later a musical duo came out to perform.
“Oh, okay, I guess this serves as a break for those who want it.” and from what I could tell, many wanted it. It was already been about two hours at this point, and a load of people just got up to take a piss, while everyone else just seemed to talk amongst themselves.
Now, this was the first problem I had with the show: the band. It comprised of a man on a banjo (and later an acoustic and an electric guitar) and a woman on a series of wind instruments. Now like most people (I’d hope) I hate the sound of recorders. When played badly, they’re like dog whistles for people. When played well, they still suck! This woman was playing them throughout the act, even playing two at the same time at one point! Her jokes sucked too. When she played the two recorders she said, “Don’t try this at home.” Hahaa, geddit? Because it’s… dangerous? No! Come on now, your joke doesn’t make sense, stop trying to be funny. We’ve just seen two hours of Ken Dodd and even if we hadn’t that joke would still have died the death it deserved. On the plus side, the guy’s guitar playing was pretty good and the woman played the recorder well. At one point, I got to thinking a recorder would be a good weapon, because you could deafen them, then smack them over the head with it.
Ken Dodd came back (thankfully) and the show picked up again. He also brought out a woman in a French maid’s outfit and an orange wig, who, judging by how unfunny she was, may have been played by the recorder player earlier. Ken went on telling his jokes and sang a few songs, including Love Me With All Your Heart and Happiness, before saying “We’re going to have an interval now.” What?! What about that interval earlier? Wasn’t that an interval? Turns out no, it wasn’t, it was just part of the show. I didn’t like that. I described it to Ben as being like if they showed a Primeval episode in the middle of a Doctor Who episode.
So, at around just over three hours in, we had our interval and I dreaded to think how much more would come. The second half opened with… not Ken Dodd. It was the orange haired woman from earlier. I guess they thought the show was too funny and so they sent her out again to bring it back down. She sat at a box and pretended to play the piano for a couple of weeks. You could tell she wasn’t really playing it because the actual pianist could be easily seen and had been part of the show since the beginning, with Ken Dodd often asking him questions, so her act made very little sense. After this, a juggler came out and spent a few years doing tricks.
This was where there were a few problems. First of all, the juggler was using one of those elaborate yo-yo things where you throw it up into the air and do tricks. But he had two and they were light up ones. I thought, “This would look much cooler in the dark.” Apparently that was actually supposed to happen, as the lights did indeed go off, but far too late as he’d almost finished his routine. Then he picked up some juggling balls and started to juggle, which is when the lights went out again, causing the juggler to shout “No no, I need the lights on for this one.” The lights quickly came back up, and this guy, ever the professional, continued on undaunted. Later, he went off-stage, which is when the band started playing to welcome Ken Dodd back. Only Ken Dodd wasn’t due to come on yet. The juggler had one more routine left, so the lady doing the introductions had to shout through the mic, “No not yet, he’s got one more routine, we’ve got one more track to play, stop playing the drums Dave, it’s not over!”
So that clearly didn’t go as planned, but I will say this: that juggler was maybe the best juggler I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just plain old juggling. He used colour and lights, and combined them with amazing tricks and skills to create something totally unique. I just wish I could remember his name. It did go on a bit long though.
Ken Dodd came back to tell jokes and even did his Dicky Mint puppet routine, which I’ve always loved. He went into some announcements, anniversaries, birthdays, and shout-outs, which is when I realised it was close to midnight. FIVE HOURS?! We’d been sitting there for five hours! After the announcements he just continued. I thought that would have been the end. Three times tonight he had the chance to end the show but instead he continued. Ben and I left at this point, and didn’t see the end.
Despite the length, I still enjoyed most of the show. I knew about Ken Dodd’s shows being long – I’ve heard about it, even my dad mentioned that we’d be there for a long time – but five hours? And that wasn’t even the end! I would have stuck around, but I was missing my family and besides, who wants to be leaving a theatre in Birmingham’s City Centre at one or two in the morning on a Saturday with all the drunks fighting in the streets? Not me for one.
Ken Dodd was great, I won’t deny that, and the fact that he can go for five hours when he’s almost into his nineties is pretty impressive and he’s just as good as he’s always been. Downsides were the acts in-between. I’m guessing it’s to give Ken a break, but he doesn’t need one; just get rid of the other acts and cut the stand up to two hours – maybe two and a half – and it’d be perfect. My guess as to why there was all this other stuff thrown in was to make it feel more like the variety shows of the fifties and sixties, which is fine, but that’s not what was advertised. I wanted to see Ken Dodd. If I wanted to see all this I would have gone to see Britain’s Got Talent.
Some of our favourite jokes from the show:
- The lady in the care home said to the old man “Do you want super sex?” and he said “I’ll have the soup.”
- The wind was really rough, it was going “Woooooo.” I thought “I must get some tablets for that.”
- He’s got a good head for money, there’s a slot on the top of it.
- *Man in the audience checks his watch* You don’t need a watch here sir, you need a calendar.
- I was the teachers pet. She kept me locked up in a cage at the back of the class.
- How do you get a fat girl into bed? Piece of cake.
- She was a big girl. I managed to get around her though… once I’d bought a bike.
- I was in a film once. I played Shakespeare. He won.
Our rating: (4 / 5) [divider top=”no” size=”1″ margin=”10″]