As Doddy entered the 1970s having conquered the pop charts, the London Palladium and the Royal Variety Show, he might have been excused for wondering “Now what?”.
It turned out to be Shakespeare, of all things.
“When it was suggested I try my hand at being a Shakespearian actor by playing Malvolio in a production of Twelfth Night at the Liverpool Playhouse, I couldn’t resist it,” Ken said.
Doddy was a revelation. He was such a success he was asked to go on tour, including an appearance at the Old Vic.
He later played Yorick in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet in 1996 but that was as far as his Shakespeare ambitions led.
“I played in a TV adaptation of the Canterbury Tales in 2000 but it was a little part,” he said.
There was a major one in 1974 when Doddy took up the challenge of beating the Guinness Book Of Records’ record for a joke- telling session.
“I knew I’d have to do about three-and-a-half hours of gags,” said Doddy.
“As it happened, it went well.
“I am told that there were about five-and-a-half thousand people who passed through as I was on stage.
“It wasn’t easy but I enjoyed it, especially when I discovered that we had beaten the record and, even better, had raised more than £4,000 for local charities.”
Doddy remained on the crest of a wave but there were also some tears of sadness.
One person very important to Doddy was Anita Boutin who had been quietly a part of his life since they first met in 1955.
A nurse by profession, Anita became a constant companion to Doddy and they got engaged.
It was an engagement that lasted for 22 years but never stepped over into marriage.
Doddy was distraught when Anita had developed a brain tumour and in the latter days spent every hour he could at her bedside.
When she died, she was buried in the local Knotty Ash churchyard. Anita was gone but never forgotten by Doddy.
The decade was to end in a bitter-sweet way for Doddy. At the end of the 1970s, he did two consecutive summer seasons at Scarborough’s Opera House, both of which sold out night after night.
Everything seemed to be going so well but then he suffered a serious setback on July 20 1979 when his dad died.
“It was a great blow,” Doddy admitted. “Your dad is your rock. My dad was my rock. When he died, it was a terrible time.”
The 1980s saw another big step in the life and times of Ken Dodd as well as a much-publicised brush with the taxman.
He returned to the London Palladium for a sell-out couple of weeks in October 1980 and was visited by the Iron Lady herself.
Yes, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher went to see him and went home still laughing and with a tickling stick as a souvenir.
There was another major event in Doddy’s life in 1980 although few people realised it at the time.
Doddy was playing Idle Jack in Dick Whittington, which brought the young lady who was playing the Good Fairy back into his life.
Sybil Jones was her stage name.
She was a talented musician and singer and proved that she could act, too. It was not the first time she and Ken had met.
“We first met when I was in the Ken Dodd Christmas Show in 1961 at the Manchester Opera House,” said Anne, Sybil’s real name.
They’d encountered each other a number of times over the years but the encounter at Birmingham was different.
It was the real start of a relationship that would last for the rest of Ken’s life.
Perhaps the biggest moment of 1981 came on the very last day of the year when the Queen’s New Years Honours list was announced and Kenneth Arthur Dodd was on the list to become an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
To we ordinary people, it meant he was to receive an OBE medal.
It was not long afterwards that some people began to wonder why it could not be a knighthood, a murmur that turned into a shout some years later – and we all know what happened in the end.
There was, of course, a major television appearance in 1986, with the 50th broadcasting of the Royal Variety Performance.
Since the Queen Mother was going to be there, Doddy had to be on the show. She was an even greater fan than her daughter – if that was possible.
“It is always a great honour to perform for the Royal Family,” said Doddy. “Behind the scenes it is organised chaos.
“People who are not normally nervous are shaking and one of the biggest problems is the limited time everyone has.
“Organised chaos but a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
It was also during the 1980s that Ken made his famous appearance in Doctor Who, playing Tollmaster in Delta And The Bannermen.
Sylvester McCoy was The Doctor – the seventh Doctor, to be precise – and was ably assisted by Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush.
“I did enjoy it very much,” said Ken.
“It was interesting and fun, and to become a part of the great Doctor Who legend was such an honour.
“I got bumped off and had to do a death scene, which is quite exciting really.”
There had to be a cloud along with the silver lining, and that came along during one of those summer seasons.
It was 1988 and Ken was appearing at Llandudno’s Arcadia Theatre to packed houses.
Behind the scenes, all was not well. He had been under investigation by Inland Revenue for some time.
He was one of the last to hear about it of, course. There had been newspaper speculation and it reached the point where Ken had to make a statement.
Typically he chose his most comfortable environment, the stage of the Arcadia.
The show was over. He was taking his final bow when he suddenly took everyone by surprise when he explained that he was under investigation.
He admitted he’d made some mistakes but hadn’t had any criminal intention of doing wrong.
The audience was stunned but then they rose and gave him a standing ovation.
Around that same time, Dave Forrester, the man who had played such a part in his career, died.
It was a terrible time for Ken, who tried to keep giving his best to his audiences, but the stress was actually making him unwell.
Finally things came to a head when the matter went to court.
Ken’s worry was compounded because jockey legend Lester Piggott had been sent to jail over his tax problems and, for Ken, the thought that the same thing might happen to him was horrifying.
It was five weeks of torture for Ken who did his best to keep smiling – and working.
In the end, he was cleared of all charges by the jury.
Later, he expressed how he had been feeling. “I only ever wanted to be a comedian,” he said.
“I think in the last few years I haven’t had a happy day, and the last 18 months have been sheer torture.
“I am very grateful for the support in the courtroom and outside and the thousands of letters of support. They really helped me cope with the stress. I cannot say thank you enough.”
At least it had finished on a happier note and the decade ended with Doddy being able to smile again.
The happiness remained for the rest of Doddy’s life. He continued to pack theatres all over the country, his An Evening With… show for ITV was viewed by millions and then in January 2017 he finally received that knighthood.
“I was thrilled to get a knighthood,” he said. “I don’t feel it’s affected me in the least. I’m still just Ken Dodd.”
He was constantly asked if he was going to retire.
“Retire? Never!” he said. “I have some great memories but the present is what’s important. You can’t live in the past – it would be cheaper but you can’t – and you don’t know about the future.
“I’m absolutely stage struck with showbusiness. While I can do it, I will do it.
“The shows are hard work and I spend a tremendous amount of time on the road. But I love it, I’ve got the best job in the world.”
After his 90th birthday, on November 8, 2017, Doddy starred in his own show at the Auditorium of the Echo Arena on Merseyside.
Little did they know that as Happiness rang out and the tickling sticks were waved in the air, the standing ovation was to be his last.
Nobody had seen the chest infection coming.
Ken, like everyone else, had experienced health issues before but the chest infection was clearly more than just a heavy cold.
He was admitted to Liverpool Heart And Chest Hospital.
After his condition gradually improved, it was decided that he could go home.
That meant a lot to Ken. He still talked of getting back on stage but inside he perhaps knew that it was not really going to happen.
Indeed, perhaps that is why, as he reflected on life and on his relationship with Anne, he asked her if she would like to marry.
Anne was surprised, especially since they had been engaged for about 40 years! She was also delighted, of course, and they married on Friday, March 9.
Ken remained in bed and he was too frail to get up but that did not detract from the dignity of the occasion as he spoke very clearly in making his marriage vows.
He also sipped a celebratory glass of champagne and looked happy that they were now Sir Ken and Lady Anne Dodd.
Two days later, it happened. It was Mother’s Day, Sunday, March 11. Ken Dodd breathed his last and a light went out that would never be replaced.
A horse-drawn hearse led the funeral cortege and close to the coffin was a model of a Diddyman, who looked very much like Dickie Mint, Doddy’s favourite.
Of course, fans and friends lined the streets and there were many carrying tickling sticks, flowers and even dressed as Diddymen.
Many of the city’s statues had been adorned with tickling sticks, too, and there were bands playing many of his greatest hits.
It was a sad occasion and yet there was also a mood of fun.
It was a celebration of a man who spent his life making people laugh and spreading happiness.