A sense of humour is a sense, just like the senses of smelling or hearing or seeing or touching or tasting.
So says Ken Dodd. And just like any sense, you’ve got to work on it.
“Some people have got a very well-exercised sense of humour,” Ken says. “They can see the incongruities, the funny things. They like to play mental games
“But everyone is born with it. Everyone is born with a chuckle muscle. It’s that spirit of play. As a boy it’s what means you can turn a box into a pirate ship or a playpen into the OK Corral.
“And as you get older, you have got to keep that spirit of happiness going. Some people, due to the way they live their lives, let their chuckle muscle get smaller and smaller. And then they become a newspaper editor!”
Other people keep it in trim and keep it working, and that’s what Ken is all about. He unashamedly calls his show the Happiness Show, but go along and you’ll see that that’s exactly what it is.
His next stop is the Pavilion Theatre, Marine Parade, Worthing on Saturday, July 12, at 7pm.
He’s a joke-teller and a joke-seller, he says, and it’s a particular kind of humour – one that gives you a tonic.
“When you say humour, it’s like saying music. You have got classical and jazz and you have got rock and roll and romantic ballads. Comedy is the same. There is drollery and witticism and the jolly jester, which is the type of humour that I fall into… the optimist… the kind of comic who says ‘What a beautiful day’.”
There’s too much cynicism around, he says. Too many comics who will try to persuade you that it’s a rotten day. Ken prefers the other extreme and always has done.
“I want people to have a good party, a jollification. I whip up a party atmosphere. We keep it going. Happiness is the main theme.”
And in doing so, he keeps alive his other great passion, namely live entertainment. He is a crusader on behalf of live theatre. His Ken Dodd Happiness Show takes him on a virtual non-stop tour of the UK, clocking up over 100,000 miles a year.
It’s that degree of travelling which has enabled him to perfect his famous giggle map – a guide to what’s funny where.
Ken’s love of showbiz began when he saw an advert for a ventriloquist’s doll in a local paper. His parents bought it for him and he christened it Charlie Brown.
He worked on a semi-professional basis for many years to supplement his earnings as a salesman ‘on the knocker’ in Liverpool. He had his own van and sold household goods around Liverpool housing estates.
And he carried over some of the saleman’s habits into his approach to showbiz.
“When I first started, before I turned pro, doing all the clubs and pubs and masonics, I used to keep a notebook. I was a salesman at the time and I used to sell buckets and shovels. I used to make a note of where I sold things, and so it seemed logical to me as an entertainer to make a list of what went down well, how the joke about the two sailors did in various places and so on – whether the jokes were good, very good or don’t ever do this one again!”
Over the years, inevitably fashions have changed in humour, Ken says. When he made his professional debut at the Empire Theatre, Nottingham in September 1954, jokes were about being skint. There was also a period when jokes were more about where you were going to get the next jag from.
Now there are more jokes about money, more jokes about professions.
But the basics remain the same, her and him jokes, Mr and Mrs jokes, and that’s always been the case: “I expect Aristophanes used to joke about Mrs Aristophanes!”
Call the box office on 01903 206 206 or visit www.worthingtheatres.co.uk.