Ken Dodd, a titan of a vanishing age of British comedy whose UK fame at its peak rivalled that of The Beatles, has died. He was 90.
He died on Sunday at his home in Knotty Ash, Liverpool - the same house where he was born in 1927.
Dodd, who had recently been hospitalised with a chest infection, married his long-time partner Anne Jones on Friday.
Instantly recognisable for his unruly mop of hair and snaggle-toothed grin, he came up through the ranks of Britain's variety circuit.
He was famous for his rapid- fire one-liners, surreal imaginative flights of fancy, use of fanciful words like "tattyfilarious" and marathon stand-up shows.
In the 1960s he held the Guinness world record for the longest joke-telling session: 1,500 in three-and-a-half hours.
His signature prop was a tickling stick - a comedy feather duster - and he was often joined by colourfully clad diminutive companions known as the Diddy Men.
In his 1960s and 70s heyday, Dodd's fame in Britain was stratospheric. He played a record 42 straight weeks at the London Palladium, hosted prime-time TV shows and hit the music charts with songs including his signature tune, Happiness.
His 1965 song, Tears, was the third-best-selling single of the decade in Britain, surpassed only by The Beatles' She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
A low point for Dodd came in 1989, when he was charged with tax fraud.
He was acquitted after a five-week trial at which his lawyer, George Carman, told jurors: "Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants."
Dodd was knighted last year, becoming Sir Ken Dodd. He gave his final performance in Liverpool at the end of December.
Flags on official buildings flew at half-mast in the city yesterday.
Fans had left flowers and tickling sticks in tribute outside his home, where his wife spoke to reporters.
"The world has lost a most life-enhancing, brilliant, creat- ive comedian with an operatically trained voice who just wanted to make people happy," she said.
Stars including Paul McCartney, David Walliams, Dara O Briain and Ant and Dec were among those to mourn the legendary funnyman.
"Farewell to my fellow Liverpudlian, the tattyfilarious Ken Dodd," McCartney wrote on Instagram.
"Beloved by many people in Britain and a great champion of his home city and comedy.
"We met him on a few occasions as The Beatles and always ended up in tears of laughter.
"Today, it's tears of sadness as well. See you, Doddy."
Walliams said of the veteran entertainer: "Comedy flowed through him like water. RIP Ken Dodd." Referring to his distinctive appearance, the wild hair and unruly teeth, the Britain's Got Talent judge added: "A face made for comedy."
Bray-born comedian Dara O Briain remembered seeing Dodd at one of his "incredible five-hour shows".
"He was an education to watch, and afterwards, at 1.30am, he had beers with me in the dressing room and talked showbiz. A privilege, and a loss. RIP," he added.
In another Instagram post, stand-up star John Bishop, who is also from Liverpool, said: "True comedy legend. RIP Ken Dodd."
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson announced that there would be a book of condolence opened in Dodd's honour.
"Liverpool today mourns one of its most famous sons, the greatest ever comedian, Ken Dodd," he said. "We are comforted by the joy and happiness he brought the world."
On Twitter, TV presenters Ant and Dec said: "So sad to hear of the passing of Ken Dodd. A comedy legend."
Comedian and quiz show host Sandi Toksvig wrote: "Best dinner companion I ever sat next to. Don't think I said a word.
"Just laughed and laughed and tried not to drown in my soup. Thank you for the genius."
Comic and actor Russ Abbot said: "Sadly another legend has passed away.
"An icon, a one-off and a true professor of comedy. One of the greatest. How tickled I am to have known him."
Comedian Dawn French paid tribute to Dodd with one of his famous jokes, writing on Twitter: "What a wonderful day for sticking a cucumber through your neighbour's letter box and shouting, 'The aliens have landed'. Tatty bye, Doddy. And thanks".
Actor and presenter Brian Conley wrote: "Thanks for all the chats and guidance, you always had time for everyone. Dear Doddy, tatty bye."
TV personality Claire Swee- ney, another Liverpudlian, shared photos of the star's 90th birthday party on Twitter and wrote: "I was thrilled you had the best birthday party in Liverpool before you left us."
Liverpool comic Les Dennis posted: "Losing Ken means losing the last music hall great.
"He was a true star who lit up a theatre. Thoughts with his wife Anne. Tatty Bye, Doddy."
Other tributes came from actor John Challis, who played Boycie in the BBC comedy series Only Fools And Horses, and Hollyoaks actor Annie Wallace, who described Dodd as a "true son of beautiful Liverpool".
Actor and director Samuel West said: "Remembering Ken Dodd performing at the Cruc-ible Theatre.
"We had to order taxis home for all the staff.
"His set finished after midnight, and nobody wanted a second less. May we all fill 90 years so well."
Radio legend Tony Blackburn wrote: "So sorry to hear that Ken Dodd has died.
"I went to see his shows and met him several times and found him to be a very lovely man.
"Thanks for all the laughs, Ken. You made me, and a lot of people, laugh for many years. RIP."