WHEN I was asked to interview Ken Dodd a few years ago, I was a little apprehensive.

He was in his 80s and, dialling his number, I braced myself for a tricky 20 minutes or so. I thought of my rather sad telephone interview with Norman Wisdom, who was nearly 90 and struggled to hear me. When I mentioned his films and career highlights, shouting down the ‘phone and repeating questions, Sir Norman said in a quiet voice: “I don’t remember those things, but if you say so I suppose I must have done them’.

Would a Doddy interview be a similar experience? By Jove, it turned out to be anything but. From the minute he picked up the ‘phone, the veteran comic chatted away, sharp as a tack. He spoke of his childhood, (in the house where he lived his entire life), his comedy heroes, becoming stage-struck at variety shows as a boy, and working the clubs, where he learned to “look ‘em in the eye”.

As we talked for the best part of an hour, what struck me was his razor sharp memory and impressive eye for detail. He peppered the conversation with gags (he's said to have told 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half-hours), and not once did I have to repeat anything. He spoke fondly of Bradford; a city he had a long association with, appearing here practically every year since starring in the 1959/60 Alhambra panto. When I said that, watching him on telly as a child, I assumed Knotty Ash was the made-up home of Diddymen (not until I was an adult did I discover it’s a real place), he said, with mock indignation: “Heckmondwike, Shelf, Idle...and you think Knotty Ash is strange!”

On Sunday evening I watched a TV tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth, another old-school entertainer with a gift for audience interaction. On Monday I woke to the news that Sir Ken Dodd had died, at the grand age of 90. I thought of watching him on stage at the Alhambra late last year, when he had a packed house in stitches for five hours. The stage was his life, and he was performing almost to the end of it.

He was out of fashion, he hadn't been on telly for donkey's years. Unlike Brucie, there was no place for Doddy in modern light entertainment Ant and Dec-dominated TV schedules - yet this week the inevitable tributes poured in, many from fellow comics. I didn’t particularly care for his humour, even as a child his Diddymen annoyed me, but he was the last of the music hall comics and I wanted to see him on stage before it was too late. I’m glad I did.

Armed with his tickling stick, he walked on at 6pm - “It’s wonderful to be here. At my age it’s wonderful to be anywhere,” he declared - and by the time he waved goodbye to his audience, on their feet and singing along to Happiness, it was nearly 11pm. He wasn’t in his prime, but he was on stage practically the whole evening and his comic timing was intact. His quickfire gags were peppered with songs, including his chart-topper, Tears. There was lively banter with the audience, and throughout his long set he returned to people he’d singled out, remembering their names. I’ve seen comics a quarter of his age who’d struggle with that.

I interviewed Doddy two or three times over the years and he spoke from the heart about his love of entertaining. “I’ve been working professionally since 1954 and I’ve never done the same show twice,” he told me. “It’s about communication, interaction. There’s no better feeling than standing in front of an audience and making them laugh.”

How tickled am I that I finally got to be in his audience.

I'm an Ageing Celebrity...Get Me In There!

* CELEBRITIES of a certain age are on trend right now. No TV reality show is complete without Nigel Havers or Jan Leeming steering a boat or taking up yoga.

In recent weeks an array of celebs aged 50-ish to 90 have appeared on reality shows with such tenuous concepts Alan Partridge himself could have pitched them. We've had Anne Diamond, Ainsley Harriott and others sharing a villa on the Costa, for no apparent reason. Tony Christie and Christine Hamilton cropped up on Celebrity 5 Go Barging, and Roy Walker, June Brown and Sandra from Gogglebox on a health farm in Sardinia. Now the likes of Debbie McGee and Neil Morrissey are "living as modern-day pilgrims" on BBC2's Road To Santiago. As their agents would no doubt say, it's never too late for freeloading...

Neverending winter when time stood still

* ENOUGH of this interminable winter!

We've barely dried our wellies from last week's snowfall, now we're told there's more snow coming this weekend...and the Met Office predicts wintry weather right into April.

This winter been a long slog. Last week I set off walking to work in snow, coughing and spluttering thanks to a chest infection I've had for a month. I felt like a consumptive character in a Dickens novel.

This should be a time of blooming buds and chirping birds, not endless wretched blizzards.