By John Ensor •
Updated: 07 Sep 2023 • 18:17
Credit: DAVID A ELLIS at English Wikipedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
What if a comedy icon’s lifetime of work had vanished forever? Lady Dodd, widow of the legendary comedian Sir Ken Dodd, faced this very dilemma.
In 2018, after the passing of Sir Ken Dodd, his wife grappled with a challenging request he’d made: to incinerate hundreds of personal notebooks brimming with jokes, reflections, and insights from his illustrious 70-year career, writes the BBC Thursday, September 7.
Despite his wishes, Lady Dodd felt these memoirs were too precious to be lost to fire. She has since chosen to share a selection with the public, describing them as both ‘distinctive’ and ‘priceless.’
Ten of these notebooks now grace an exhibition entitled ‘Happiness’ at the Museum of Liverpool, alongside cherished items like Sir Ken’s renowned Diddymen puppets and tickling sticks. These ten were selected from nearly 1,000 existing books where Sir Ken penned his humour, often labelling his top jokes with the acronym GOG, signifying ‘good old gag’.
The pages not only house jokes but also offer a peek into his personal musings on comedy. Some entries even provide a candid look into his innermost thoughts. One poignant note reads, ‘I am ruining my life by doing such long shows. I am spoiling the quality of my lifestyle by being so self-indulgent and egotistical. I must take some material out.’
Lady Dodd shared, ‘A lot of it was self-critical. And some very deep thoughts. And once in a while, he’d say how happy he was doing what he did.’
Sir Ken was adamant about the fate of these diaries. ‘He told me several times in the latter years of his life – he did say, ‘You will burn everything when I’m gone? You will burn all my notebooks, won’t you?
‘And I promised. I’m afraid I promised faithfully because he said it so adamantly. But when it came to think of it, I never thought of burning them. I knew I couldn’t.’
Karen O’Rourke, curator at the Museum of Liverpool, remarked, ‘He was such a public person but the thing about the notebooks is they’ve never been seen before. They were never meant to be seen, they were always only for Ken. So for us to have 10 on display is a real bonus for the exhibition. It is hoped that the notebooks will find a permanent resting place once the exhibition is over.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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