Sir Ken Dodd and the end of a comedy era

From BBC - March 13, 2018

In the 1960s and '70s, a Ken Dodd Summer season in Blackpool would often begin at Whitsuntide and end at Christmas.

He would play twice a day Monday to Friday, three times on Saturday and he would be filling a 3,000-seat theatre every time, a place bigger than the London Palladium.

Then, on a Sunday, he would play another venue in another town.

Often it would be Blackpool's northern rival Scarborough. That's more than a million paying customers in total.

Forty years on, his most regular Scarborough haunt, the Futurist, is being knocked down.The other two summer season theatres, the Floral Hall and the Opera House, have both long since gone.

However, if you want to understand Ken Dodd, it helps if you remember something of this era at the tail end of variety and music hall.

Modern comedy has split in to two.At the bottom are the small clubs of traditional stand-up.The crowd is usually young and well lubricated.At the top are the select band of TV stars who can play the really big tours.

In Ken Dodd's heyday, his audience were families on a week's holiday by the seaside.Fish and chips, tea, bread and butter - and big portions - were the normal pre-show preparation.

He, in turn, would deliver big portions of comedy. Scarborough's taxi drivers dreaded his visits, knowing they would be waiting on the foreshore into the early hours of the morning.

Occasionally, in old recordings, you get a glimpse of the audience and see how many of them were older women and relatively young children. He needed to find a way of making them all laugh. The solution was the torrent of gags.


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