Ken DODD OBE (1927-2018)

Ken Dodd This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 784
  • Subject No: 773
  • Broadcast date: Mon 7 May 1990
  • Broadcast time: 8.30-9.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 19 Feb 1990
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 30
  • Edition: 27
  • Code name: Stick

on the guest list...

  • Billy Marsh
  • Stan Clarke
  • The Knotty Ash Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Anne Jones - fiancée
  • Billy - brother
  • June - sister
  • Albert Saveen and Daisy May
  • John Bouchier and Ada
  • The Diddy Men
  • Hilda Fallon
  • Maisie Fallon
  • Alan Shields
  • Gladys Evans
  • Stan Boardman
  • Jimmy Jewel
  • Pat Coombs
  • Gretchen Franklin
  • David Hamilton
  • Barbara Knox
  • Rosemary Squires
  • Norman Newell
  • Vince Hill
  • The Mike Sammes singers
  • Frank Carson
  • Bernie Clifton
  • Margaret Kelly
  • Teddy Johnson
  • Pearl Carr
  • Stromboli
  • Sylvia
  • Antony Tuckey
  • Bob Carolgees
  • Jimmy Cricket
  • Bill Tidy
  • Michael Billington
  • John Fisher
  • Danny La Rue
  • Bonnie Langford
  • Bill Boutin
  • Phyllis Ford
  • Phil Kernott
  • Len Annett
  • Peter Rogan
  • Audrey Simpkiss
  • Eric Sykes
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Marianna Sefton
  • Victoria Wood
  • Roy Hudd

production team...

  • Researchers: Louise Clover, Sue Green
  • Writer: Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Brian Klein, John Birkin
  • Associate Producer: John Graham
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

It's a Funny Old Life

it's all about the comedy

Extended Life

the special editions

Birth of Life

the genesis of the programme


the show's fifty year history

Klein's having the time of his life

The Stage interview with Associate Producer Brian Klein

Biggest night of all for the big red book

Press coverage for The Night of 1000 Lives

Bob Carolgees

Pearl Carr

Frank Carson

Pat Coombs

Jimmy Cricket

Vince Hill

Jimmy Jewel

Teddy Johnson

Danny La Rue

Bonnie Langford

Billy Marsh

Eric Sykes

Bill Tidy

Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life Ken Dodd This Is Your Life

Photographs and screenshots of Ken Dodd This Is Your Life

Ken Dodd biography

Louis Barfe recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Happiness and Tears - The Ken Dodd Story...

Moreover, he could still fill the Palladium many times over, as he did for six weeks in late 1990, with a show once again directed by Dickie Hurran. Before then, Dodd was to receive the accolade of being not only the subject of This Is Your Life, but the subject of the 500th show made by Thames Television since it had been revived in 1969. Due to be transmitted in early May, the double-length show was recorded at London's Royalty Theatre on 19 February, with Frank Carson, Jimmy Jewel, Twelfth Night director Antony Tuckey and Doddy's mentor Hilda Fallen turning up to pay tribute. However, the programme didn't get underway without a little light tabloid controversy.

The Liverpool Echo reported that 'a newspaper' had spoiled the surprise on the morning of the show, but that the recording had proceeded 'in the hope that neither Doddy nor any of his friends would have seen the article'. A Thames spokesman was quoted as saying that the reveal had been 'purely malicious' but added that 'this newspaper is read by so few people he's unlikely to have read it' Not naming the newspaper in question is revealing in itself. The article refers, of course, to the Sun, regarded with justifiable contempt across Merseyside for its horrific coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy, in which the fans were accused of all manner of atrocities. Writer and former Echo sub-editor Gary Bainbridge confirms that 'The Echo continues to have a house style of never referring to the Sun by name. The closest it ever gets is The S*n.

Ken Dodd biography

Stephen Griffin recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Ken Dodd - The Biography... April 1990 he finally agreed to appear on This Is Your Life, after he'd twice foiled earlier attempts to be ensnared. This time, however, presenter Michael Aspel pounced on him at the London Palladium when he arrived there for talks about his new autumn show. "They brought me down to look at a poster and then, from behind the pillar, came the man with the red book. It frightened the life out of me, I thought he was the VAT man" said Dodd. "I'd heard whispers of it twice before, but I had never had much of a life up to then." For the occasion, the show's researchers managed to unearth one of his schoolteachers, then ninety years old, who still remembered her naughty pupil.

The TV tribute must have been somewhat of a double-edged sword to this most intensely private of men, but Dodd realised the programme was always a fairly innocuous one, and it also generated some brilliant publicity for his forthcoming Palladium appearance.

Malcolm Morris biography

Producer Malcolm Morris recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is My Life...

We kicked off the new decade by doing the life of one of Britain's best-loved comedians. You can be sure that anything to do with Ken Dodd is going to be unusual. He does not live on the same planet as most of us; instead he is on permanent tour around the country, or 'Doddyland' as he calls it. His ambition is to play every theatre in the country and he must be pretty close to achieving this aim. This time he was booked into the London Palladium for six weeks, so we knew where he was going to be.

Monday 19 February 1990 was the day. Ken was due to attend his first rehearsal at the theatre with the musicians and dancers. The plan was for Michael to hide on stage until the rehearsal was over and then appear out of a suitable piece of scenery. We expected this to be around five o'clock that afternoon and our studio was all set for the actual programme at seven. Annie, who had been with Ken for many years and looked after all his arrangements, was, of course, in on the secret. I kept in close contact with her and knew they were staying at a small hotel in Kensington.

On that Monday I was going over all the last details with the associate producer Johnny Graham when a pale-looking researcher came into my office waving a newspaper.

'It's all off,' she said.

John and I looked at each other. 'Is he dead?' we both asked at the same time.

She showed us the front page of Today newspaper whose headline read 'Ken Dodd: This Is Your Life.' The article went on to say that we were planning to do Ken's life that evening and that he knew all about it. I immediately phoned the hotel and got through to a puzzled Annie. 'No, he definitely does not know,' she told me.

'But he will as soon as he reads his morning paper or somebody phones him to talk about it,' I said. Annie went on to tell me that Ken, like most theatre people, was not an early riser. We then went into action. 'Right, keep him in bed and get the hotel to stop all his incoming calls.' Annie had a slight smile in her voice when she said that stopping his calls was easy but how did she keep him in bed?

'Oh, you'll think of something.' I then went on to tell her that all she had to do was to make sure he went straight to the Palladium after he had woken up.

'But once he's there everybody will be talking to him,' she said.

'Don't worry, we will surprise him as he arrives at eleven o'clock and do the show at two.'

A muted cry went up from Mandy Lee, the programme organiser, who demanded to know how we were going to bring every invitation and all our arrangements forward by five hours. I couldn't answer because I had already left to explain to the director that he had the same problem.

All that remained now was to change the rehearsal by rebooking the musicians and dancers and stage crew.

Ken did have a happy morning in bed, he did not see a newspaper until after our show and he received no phone calls. Our programme was a surprise – except he did say that he'd been expecting us... for many years. What had kept us so long? was his question. It was a great show.

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

More recently, we had the same experience with comedian Ken Dodd. Tickled we weren't when a national newspaper gossip columnist revealed that Michael Aspel would surprise him that day. Luckily for us, Doddy - who works nights, of course - is a late sleeper. Even more fortunate, his managers were in discussion at the time with Thames TV executives about a variety 'special' from the London Palladium.

So a 'cordon' was thrown around Ken, who found himself involved in all-day meetings, with hardly a chance for a cup of coffee, let alone reading any newspapers.

He was astonished when Michael Aspel pounced, just outside the Palladium. Said the comedian: 'Michael, that really put the wind up me. I thought you were the VAT man.'

TV Times: This Is Your Life listing

TV Times 5 May 1990

8.30pm This Is Your Life


In 1969, Des O'Connor was interrupted during his one-man performance on the stage of The Palladium with the words 'This Is Your Life'.

21 years later, the programme moves to the stage of London's Royalty Theatre, where another 'Life' will unfold. There have been 499 Red Books since that first 'Life'.

The 500th is now ready and Michael Aspel will open it tonight.

[ editor: The edition referred to here - which pays tribute to Ken Dodd, is the 527th edition to be broadcast since Des O'Connor's tribute]

Series 30 subjects

Omar Sharif | Sarah Brightman | Yvonne Cormeau | Cyril Smith | Jean Boht | Zsa Zsa Gabor | Alec McCowen | Barbara Cartland
Douglas Fairbanks Jr | William Shatner | Barbara Taylor Bradford | Elizabeth Dawn | Billy Wright | Trevor McDonald
Stephanie Beacham | Simon Weston | Peter Scudamore | Peter Cushing | David Shepherd | Harry Secombe
Nigel Kennedy | Eluned Williams | Billy Marsh | Bob Holness | Bobby Davro | Michael Baldock | Ken Dodd