The comedian, who died aged 90 in 2018, urged his widow Anne to torch around 1,000 notebooks filled with jokes, ideas and musings.
But after reading the treasure trove of quips, one-liners – and thoughts on stage fright – she decided they were a part of Britain’s comedy history.
Ten of the books are now going on display in his home city, at an exhibition running from tomorrow to March 3 next year.
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The Happiness! event at the Museum of Liverpool also includes Sir Ken’s famous Diddymen puppets and his iconic tickling sticks.
His notebooks contain jokes marked for how well they went down with his audiences. The best were given the acronym GOG – “good old gag”.
Sir Ken also self-critiqued his shows and drew “mind maps” about topics like showbusiness, superstitions, stage fright and nerves.
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Former Bluebell Girls dancer Lady Anne said: “He told me, ‘You will burn everything when I’m gone? You will burn all my notebooks, won’t you?’
“And I promised. But I knew I couldn’t.”
– My teeth are all my own. I just finished paying for them.
– This lady stopped me the other day. She said, ‘Hello handsome, can you tell me the way to the optician’s?’
– My Dad knew I was going to be a comedian. When I was a baby he said: ‘Is this a joke?’
– Did you hear about the shrimp that went to the prawn’s cocktail party? He pulled a mussel.
– In some parts of the world people eat little bent pieces of wire for breakfast — it’s their staple diet.
– The man who invented cats’ eyes got the idea when he saw the eyes of a cat in his headlights. If the cat had been going the other way, he would have invented the pencil sharpener.
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