Despite the event being a major civic occasion, there must have been a few councillors squirming in their seats at the opening night of New Brighton’s newly rebuilt Floral Pavilion.
"Anyone want to buy a library? Buy one now and get a swimming pool free!" quipped Ken Dodd – and the roar from the rest of the audience showed what most local people think of the council’s latest cost-saving proposals.
Still there were roars of approval too for the splendid new theatre when the team who made it all happen took their bow at the start of the show.
If it was an honour for Doddy to perform first in the bright and spacious building ("This fabulous new branch of Wirral’s Meals on Wheels service"), in the end – which naturally did not come for another five-and-a-half hours – it was the audience who were privileged.
This was a comic genius in vintage form. The quick-fire gags, the timing, the double-takes, the sly asides, the hilarious and surreal flights of fantasy… even at eighty-plus all the familiar trademarks are still in place.
And Doddy’s stamina is still amazing. The support acts, including a slickly mystifying magician called Amethyst, are used sparingly and his final hour and a quarter solo stint at around midnight would tax someone half his years.
Even the occasional signs of age such as the memory loss are used with a trouper’s skill ("I really should stick to the jokes I know") to add a further hilarious layer to the performance.
His affection for this venue and for his audience was evident throughout and his fans responded to make it a night to remember.
Ken Dodd’s status would surely have brought him official honours long ago if not for his little misunderstanding with the income tax authorities ("Self Assessment? I invented that!")
As it is, he remains the uncrowned king of British comedy – and long may he reign!