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Entertainer Sir Ken Dodd left tickled pink by knighthood


Veteran entertainer Sir Ken Dodd at Buckingham Palace after he was made a Knight Bachelor of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge

Veteran entertainer Sir Ken Dodd at Buckingham Palace after he was made a Knight Bachelor of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge

Veteran entertainer Sir Ken Dodd at Buckingham Palace after he was made a Knight Bachelor of the British Empire by the Duke of Cambridge

Entertainer Sir Ken Dodd was left tickled pink when he was dubbed a knight by the Duke of Cambridge for a career making the nation laugh and his charity work.

The Liverpudlian, who is still touring at the age of 89, was over joyed when William awarded him the honour during a Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony.

Famed for his wild hair, buck teeth, Diddymen and infamous "tickling stick", the veteran comedian said about the honour: "I'm delighted and highly tickled.

"One of the happiest things is the joy and pleasure it brings to your family and friends and then you say to yourself it is a great honour and I just hope I'll be worthy of it."

Born the son of a coal merchant in 1927 in Knotty Ash, Sir Ken made his professional debut at the Nottingham Empire Theatre in 1954 and has been performing regularly ever since.

His talent led to shows on the radio and television and a recording career, with his signature tune Happiness released in 1964.

The following year a 42-week run at the London Palladium cemented his status and he also made it into the Guinness Book of Records for telling 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours.

In 1989, he was charged with tax evasion but was acquitted after a three-week trial.

Despite his age Sir Ken's work ethic is renown with his gigs regularly lasting hours - and throughout 2017 he is touring the nation with his Happiness show.

Sir Ken added: "Some of my shows last over four hours but there's also a supporting cast, we do it as a team so I love to have other acts on the same show."

The veteran comic said the fans who come to his gigs kept him going: "It's the audiences, you live off an audience.

"I tell people I've got the best job in the world, because I only see happy people.

"I only see them laughing and it's a wonderful feeling, it comes over to you on the stage when you have an audience laughing their socks off.

"I won't hang my tickling stick up, till I have to."

Speaking about how his love of showbusiness started, Sir Ken said: "My father loved variety theatre, particularly comedians, and he used to take the family to a little theatre in the centre of Liverpool, in Fraser Street, called the Shakespeare Theatre of Varieties.

"All the entertainers were booked from a firm in Glasgow which meant I saw all the great comedians and I entered this wonderful magical world.

"These men would come on and tell jokes and the place was full of laughter and happiness and to me as a boy, I was seven or eight, that sounded like a good job."

He added: "One day I saw an advertisement 'fool your teachers, amaze your friends, send six pence in stamps - become a ventriloquist' and that's how it started."

Sir Ken said he had left his tickling sticks behind at his hotel but he improvised with a fluffy microphone cover after the ceremony, when he posed for pictures.

Acclaimed actor Tim Pigott-Smith was awarded an OBE for a career on stage and screen that has lasted almost half a century.

Speaking at the palace after the investiture ceremony, he said: "This was a complete surprise. I've been thinking what a wonderful honour it was (because) when you get here and see people who've done a proper job - like servicemen, policemen - it's very humbling, because I've just had nearly 50 years of fun really."

He is best known for his theatre work both in the West End and Broadway having appeared opposite lead ladies like Dame Helen Mirren and led the theatre company Compass for a period.

Memorable television and film roles have included Merrick, the racist police superintendent, in the ITV mini-series The Jewel in the Crown, and parts in the movies The Remains of the Day and Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York.

Pigott-Smith said the highlight of his career was The Jewel in the Crown: "That's the one that changed my life, a long time ago now 1984, just in terms of a life experience and a job experience, quite phenomenal.

"It really was an international event, it went everywhere."

The actor will appear in the upcoming BBC2 drama King Charles III - reprising his lead role in the award winning play now filmed for the small screen.

Written in blank verse, it tells the story of Charles, now monarch after the Queen's death, refusing to sign a controversial bill into law and the political chaos that follows, leading to a constitutional crisis, rioting on the streets and a tank in front of Buckingham Palace.

Pigott-Smith added: "Just think this Christmas when the Queen was unwell, the nation shuddered, people went into shock.

"So there is a question, in the next 15 years that we're going to have to answer - what will the country look like without one of its great stabilising influences.

"I think we were very lucky to do a play like that because it was cutting edge, in quite a lot of other countries something would have been done or said."

Jack Perry, social secretary of the Guinea Pig Club, an inspirational band of badly burned Second World War airmen who were treated during the pioneering days of plastic surgery, was awarded an MBE.

The former flight engineer, who was badly burned when his bomber blew up in 1944, said: "I'm so proud but I'm very emotional.

"Frankly I've not been very well for some time now and didn't think I was going to make it. My daughter had never been to the palace before so I'm just thrilled she's here.

"Yes I feel very emotional about my friends, makes me think about so many of them no longer with us and how much I owe to some wonderful surgeons not just Sir Archibald McIndoe.

Formed in 1941, the men took the name of their club from the guinea pig, because of the experimental nature of the surgical procedures they underwent.

It once had more than 600 members, many of whom fought in the Battle of Britain against the Luftwaffe, and had received treatment for disfiguring burns at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, from the visionary surgeon Sir Archibald.

PA Media