Comedy: Ken Dodd; Richmond Theatre
He undoubtedly has a demeanour made for comedy: electric-shock hairdo courtesy of Don King's barber, ill-matched jacket and trousers, ill-fitting tie, and teeth that endanger the eyesight of those foolhardy to book front- row seats. (His trademark gnashers are said to be insured for pounds 10,000.) The look, in other words, is just as you remembered it from all those early 1970s Saturday night television variety shows. And so is the act.
Billed as "An Evening of Happiness with Ken Dodd and Friends", it trades in the universal Carry On virtues of silliness and sauciness (which never, ever, lapses into swearing.) Many in the audience had long since received their bus passes - Dodd bid us welcome to "this magnificent branch of meals on wheels" - but a surprising number of younger faces had appeared to sample this timeless brand of stand-up (and help bump up the profits for the Knotty Ash tickling-sticks on sale in the foyer).
He made concessions to topicality with the odd joke about BSE, water board chairmen and road rage. But from the moment he staggered on stage last Wednesday waving not one but two tickling-sticks while simultaneously doing a funny walk and a funny face, you knew you were in no danger of being lacerated by the cutting edge of comedy. In a touch that dates from music-hall, his punchlines were accompanied by various "boom-boom" sound effects from the dinner-jacketed percussionist at the back of the stage. He even committed the cardinal sin in the eyes of the post-Alternative generation: he told a mother-in-law joke.
The act revolved around Dodd rattling out gags so quickly that the laughter from one punchline drowned out the next - and he kept up the cracking pace till midnight. He remains faster off the mark than Linford Christie; the moment he discovered a person in the third row was a bin man, he quipped: "When he married that woman next to him, he carried her over the threshold and dropped half of her down the path."
He punctuated the rapidfire gagging with ritual moments of self-deprecation: "I get paid by the laugh. At the moment, I owe them pounds 7.50." These became considerably more spicy as he mused about his close encounters of an Inland Revenue kind. "Hello," he reflected, "is a lovely word - unless you're saying it to a VAT inspector. I get terribly sentimental, I miss the money. We were lovers." This tack obviously elicited sympathy; when he introduced himself as "Kenneth Arthur Dodd - artist, model and failed accountant", he received a hearty round of applause.
Atop the ornate proscenium arch at the Richmond Theatre is carved a grandiose quotation stating the venue's noble aim: "to wake the soul by tender strokes of art". I don't know if Dodd quite does that, but he certainly makes people laugh.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Liam Gallagher slams Daft Punk: 'I could have written Get Lucky in an hour'
Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
After 61 films, including The Hangover Part III, Heather Graham admits she still likes to boogie
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 3 Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims
- 4 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
- 5 Exclusive: Woolwich killings suspect Michael Adebolajo was inspired by cleric banned from UK after urging followers to behead enemies of Islam
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.