The Third Leader: Ticklish things

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The Independent Online

I could try something involving delivering, lecture, incredulity, and a passing double entendre, but I lack the great man's way with his stick, hair, teeth, timing and that look, infinitely more subtle and immeasurably more infectious than any leer or, save us, wink.

Besides, Doddy's date is not so incongruous: he has played Malvolio and, even, Yorick, in his time, and is an authority on the theory of humour. I said theory, Sir! He can quote Bergson, Schopenhauer - after you - and Freud, although, as he usually adds, none of them played the Glasgow Empire. (Nor did Max Miller: "Listen, I'm a comic, not a missionary.")

And the Bard did like a laugh. It's often overlooked, for example, in all the debate about its proper significance, that the Porter's speech in Macbeth is pure stand-up. Some of us believe, too, that the young Will's stay in Lancashire, spring of humour and mother of a line stretching down through Morecambe, Dawson, Dodd himself, Wood and Kay, did wonders for his way with a line.

How about this from Falstaff, quoted by Doddy himself recently: "I'll tickle your catastrophe!" See? The Squire also confided that today was a great honour, and that he had been brushing up his Shakespeare so that he wouldn't seem "a complete fool". But that, with the greatest respect, in the strictest sense, and in the fondest way, is exactly what you are, Sir.