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Doddy spreads Happiness at the Museum of Liverpool

Tickling sticks at the ready as the Museum of Liverpool has unveiled its new exhibition dedicated to Sir Ken Dodd.

Happiness!, which celebrates the life of the Master of Mirthyside, is believed to be the first show about a comedian in any major UK museum.

It is on show in a new temporary exhibition space at the waterfront venue and runs until March 2024.

Museum bosses say the exhibition – packed with never-before-seen personal objects, film, photography, interactives and lots of jokes - will have the same “unique blend of whimsical, physical, surreal and theatrical humour” as Doddy’s comedy.

Many of the objects have been loaned to the museum by Anne, Lady Dodd from the late comedian’s own personal archive.

Visitors will be able to see famous props including Dicky Mint and tickling sticks, some of his eccentric stage costumes, snippets from the 1,000 books of meticulous notes about his comedy performances that Doddy kept from 1954 onwards, theatre bills, programmes and posters spanning seven decades, clips from footage of his performances and interviews with fellow stars like Sir Ian McKellen, Lee Mack and Miriam Margolyes, and some of the many awards he won during his career.

The exhibition is divided into 'front of house', 'backstage' and 'dressing room' sections.

Along with his comedy, Sir Ken also appeared on stage and film in Shakespeare productions, and a copy of the prop skull, complete with trademark protruding teeth, used in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet – where Doddy played Yorick in flashback – will also be on show.

A slideshow of items in the exhibition

Meanwhile a special new interactive digital ‘giggle map’ has been created which explores the people and quirks he encountered and chronicled on his many tours around the UK.

Karen O’Rourke, Curator of Sport, Music and Performance, said: “Sir Ken Dodd remains one of Liverpool’s most famous sons, so we’re very excited to be sharing his incredible career and achievements at Museum of Liverpool.

“Happiness! explores the two sides of the much-loved Doddy, from the larger than life, quick-witted performer we know best, to the deep-thinker and private man off stage, who diligently filled more than a thousand notebooks with his jokes, observations, and philosophy of comedy.

Above: Ken Dodd's copy of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. He appeared as Malvolio at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1971. Photo by Gareth Jones.

“An exhibition about Ken would be incomplete without trying to capture his irresistible spirit. Expect plenty of gags and some of his most memorable props and costumes, as we celebrate Ken’s humour and lifelong passion for spreading happiness and laughter.”

Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born in Liverpool in 1927 and enjoyed a seven-decade career encompassing stage and screen, being known as “the last great music hall entertainer”.

He also had a number one hit with Tears which became the third highest selling record of the 1960s, outselling everyone except another Liverpool act – The Beatles.

He died at his home in Knotty Ash in March 2018 aged 90.

Happiness! is at the Museum of Liverpool until March 2024.

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