"Ken Dodd the Biography"? Slightly cheeky title, that, suggesting as it does a
definitive study. Dodd himself offered no cooperation and spoke darkly of "pirates"
who'd written about him against his will in a recently repeated edition of BBC's Arena programme
celebrating his eighty years; Michael Billington's monograph, now several decades
old, was the only book he spoke about with warmth (try your library).
Griffin's book passes the time agreeably enough but his prose doesn't have the
sparkle of a John Fisher (Funny Way to Be a Hero & Tommy Cooper), nor is there the
sense of involvement of a Graham McCann (Morecambe and Wise & Frankie
Howerd)- ie the author doesn't have a compelling enough individual style to
compensate for the lack of direct access to his subject. True, there are some insights
from sympathetic interviewees like Roy Hudd but also a fair amount of pointless
soundbites from celebrities (Anne Widdecombe?!) which don't offer much or are
quoted too briefly to be of use; Bob Monkhouse - not, in my view, a natural comic but
one who undoubtedly understood and appreciated others - is the notable exception
One plus point is that Griffin does offer chapter and verse on the tax trial, which earlier
books obviously couldn't do, but overall there seems little sense of the comedian's
inner life. Dodd spoke in the Arena documentary of writing his autobiography; let's
hope he is spared to do so. Though in fairness to Griffin maybe Monkhouse's
comment that for Dodd "everything offstage is an interval" means that Dodd the person
is of less interest than the "clever, spinning Dervish of a madman that he has invested
with life" when performing.