It’s just gone seven o’clock when Ken Dodd enters the stage banging his Knotty Ash drum.
Dodd is still standing centre stage acknowledging the standing ovation as the curtain falls for the final time as the clock nudges 11.30pm.
Other than the interval – which he calls after some two hours 40 minutes – and a half hour musical stint by a support act, the 89-year old entertainer was on stage throughout.
It’s his home.
The pace may be gentle, the jokes may well be of a certain vintage, but he still basks in the sound of laughter.
He’s smart enough to play the ‘‘what’s my line’’ and ’’where are we again’’ prompt game with his backing band, and weave it into the set, so the moments he does forget a line, or drops the thread of rambling story, which happens now and then, are quickly laughed off.
Time doesn’t so much stand still at a Dodd gig, rather, it’s forgotten.
He jokes about bringing as calendar, rather than a watch, to one of his shows, but his audience stays with him until the final curtain call – last time at the Alhambra he was still going at midnight.
There’s a genuine warmth towards him from the very start, and while age may have applied a gentle brake to his delivery, he knows everything there is about how to entertain a live audience, and his comic timing remains as keen as ever. It’s part of his DNA.
It’s actually when the band depart and Dodd has the stage to himself that he is at his sharpest – his gags about the taxman earned the biggest laughs, and his observations on men and women were all on the money.
Only in the final 15 minutes does he take a seat as he brings out Dicky Mint, his trusty sidekick and the most famous of the Diddy Men.
Two songs wrap up another night on the boards, and capture the two sides of Dodd – a heartfelt Absent Friends filled with pathos, and, of course, his signature tune, Happiness.
It remains the greatest gift that he possesses, and, as long as he has it, he’ll be on stage longer, and later, than any other performer.
There is nowhere else he’d rather be.
And the sight and sound of another standing ovation will ease his road to the next theatre ...