First Night: Ken Dodd, City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds

Still banging out gags to a relentless beat

What better way to enjoy seeing Ken Dodd than at Leeds City Varieties theatre, the one-time venue of the BBC music hall homage The Good Old Days? Though Ken Dodd's career started when music hall had just said "tatty bye" and thrown its trilby hat into the ring, Dodd is the last remaining link to the antics of Dan Leno, Max Miller et al.

Clutching tickling sticks, the audience of a certain age seem undaunted by the comedy hostage situation that they are about to submit themselves to. Backed intermittently with a number of other variety acts Dodd has no trouble passing the time because, like the Knotty Ash bass drum he beats to herald his entrance onstage, he bangs out gags to a relentless beat. For example, introducing himself to the ladies in the audience (who are given the job of censoring him if he gets too near the knuckle) he rhythmically delivers: "Angela? Angel for short but not for long!", "June? Ten degrees hotter than May!"

Dodd's toothy bewilderment seems undimmed even if his wild-man hair has thinned and a rasping cough punctuates the wide-eyed stares and chuckles. Ludicrous observations from the Dodd joke memory bank such as: "I love the ballet but I never understand who's winning!" and "If you have a beard and you eat Shredded Wheat, how do you know when to stop eating?" have a timelessness to them as current acts such as Tim Vine and Harry Hill testify. The latter comparison is strengthened by Dodd adding comic twists to refrains from songs: "I've often walked these streets before ... but I never noticed you had no front door."

It's not hard to understand the fascination that writers and academics have for Dodd, something that came to the fore a few years ago when he gave a talk, Shakespeare: A Fellow Of Infinite Jest, at the RSC.

Through one man we have a cherished example of continuity of comedy from the Tudor jester (symbolically through his tickling stick) and on to today when his craft can still be re-interpreted.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before