How Tickled I am
As a writer, one tends to read a lot. And in a small way to help to keep my local library open, much of this is by reserving books from there with only the occasional book off Amazon or Ebay. Haringey has a pretty good service but sometimes like London Buses, you wait for ages, then three turn up at once. In one unusually long gap between arrivals, George grabs Tickling the English by Dara O’Briain
Tickling the English feels like a foreigner’s view of this sceptred isle as seen from the stage and back seat of his vehicle. Well researched, it has anecdotes of many of our towns and as London is now his home, the foreigner label can be dropped.
But it is the ending that has the biggest surprise. After months on the road, Dara treats himself to see Ken Dodd who has now done 57 years in show business and is 85. As if that were not enough, his shows are famously long, finish after midnight and contain little swearing. The energy levels are amazing and to today’s hard-pressed workers, give a glimpse of the future. Doubt if many of us will have to work till 85 but the old retirement age of 65 looks absurd against Ken’s efforts and we might as well get used to it.
Starting at 7pm Ken’s first set is over one hour, followed by lady singer and multi-instrumentalist whose name sadly escapes me. Thirty or so minutes and Ken is back for another hour and the interval comes after 2hrs 42 minutes. The material is often aimed a mature audience, hence the lack of bad language as the humour can be made without this.
Subjects unsurprisingly include HMRC, where one of his better known gags is “Self-assessment? I invented that!”
“How much do you expect to earn next year?” Out of jest or honesty, the figure of £2 million slips out, but no reaction from the audience. In 1989, Ken was famously prosecuted by the Inland Revenue for tax evasion. For the uninitiated, tax evasion is unlawful whereas tax avoidance is not. Can’t see the difference? Well the courts sometimes don’t see it either. Answer: get a decent accountant/tax adviser. But I digress.
Hitler in the High Street
The Wolverhampton Civic Centre location is a monument to 1960s concrete construction reminding me eerily of my own Secondary Modern school in Cambridge. The concrete looks are of course a direct descendant of the German Bauhaus movement from the 1930s where as the old joke goes, our post-war town planners achieved what the Luftwaffe and Blitz never could. The audience is quite fluid with people leaving and arriving late, but Ken is not put off and they provide extra material. Two old ladies arrive 15 minutes after the show has started: “The lap dancers have arrived!”
Interval over, the multi-instrumental group Andante give an excellent 30 minutes and then Ken is back for his final hour long set. Saving the best till last, this part of the show is pure genius and the show closes at 00.05 hrs, with much of the audience looking more exhausted than the performer. Ken’s material is kept in a collection of plastic bags so he does not have to worry about telling the same joke twice in a show. As a Christmas present to myself it was excellent, only slightly spoiled by the petrol cost of the 250 mile round trip. But with 60 per cent of the price at the pump being tax this seems unlikely to change.
Any other Ken Dodd fans out there? His website is here.