Sir Ken Dodd, creator of the Diddy Men and one of the most popular comedians of his time, has died aged 90.
The Liverpool legend had recently been released from hospital after six weeks of treatment for a chest infection.
On Friday, he had married Anne Jones, his partner of 40 years, at their house, the same one he grew up in, in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash.
Lady Anne described him as “a most life-enhancing, brilliant, creative comedian”.
Speaking outside their home, she said Sir Ken “just wanted to make people happy”.
She added: “I have lost a most wonderful husband. He lived to perfect his art and entertain his live and adoring audiences.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and affection which I’ve already received from dear friends and the public.”
Sir Paul McCartney tweeted a picture of Sir Ken with The Beatles, saying he was “a champion of his home city and comedy”.
Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram tweeted his condolences and recalled he had been “the butt of some of his gags” at Sir Ken’s recent 90th birthday celebrations at the Town Hall.
A book of condolence has opened at the Town Hall, with mayor Joe Anderson tweeting: “We are comforted by the joy and happiness he brought the world.”
The flags at several buildings in Liverpool – including the Town Hall, St George’s Hall, Cunard Building and Central Library – are also flying at half mast as a mark of respect.
Sir Ken was famous for his very long stand-up shows – with which he was touring until last year – along with his Diddy Men and the tickling stick.
“To my mind, he was one of the last music hall greats,” his publicist Robert Holmes said.
“He passed away in the home that he was born in over 90 years ago. He’s never lived anywhere else. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Fellow Liverpudlian and actress Claire Sweeney shared some photos of the star’s 90th birthday party on Twitter, saying he was “a legend and an inspiration”.
Paying tribute to Sir Ken, comedian Russ Abbot said he was “an icon, a one-off and a true professor of comedy”.
“One of the greatest. How tickled I am to have known him,” he added.
Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop wrote on Instagram: “True comedy legend. RIP Sir Ken Dodd.”
Actor David Morrissey, who is also from Knotty Ash, tweeted: “Ken Dodd was such an important part of my life growing up in Knotty Ash. He was a great comic and a great man. Thanks for all the laughs.”
Sir Ken had been a comedian since 1954 and was born the son of a coal merchant in 1927.
In the 1960s, he made it into the Guinness Book of Records for telling 1,500 jokes in three and a half hours.
After making his name in the music halls, his career in television and radio took off, as he brought national appeal to his regional, perhaps parochial humour.
He was a chart-topping singer too: his signature tune Happiness was released in 1964 and his single Tears was the third highest-selling song of the 1960s in Britain, beaten only by two Beatles singles.
Sir Ken met Anne when she appeared in the Ken Dodd Christmas Show at the Manchester Opera House in 1961.
Reverend Julia Jesson said when she moved to Sir Ken’s local church – St John’s in Knotty Ash – her former parishioners were very amused when they found who one of her flock would be.
“Everyone knew about Knotty Ash thanks to Ken,” she added.
“I met him several times and I was struck by what a Godly and humble man he was.”
Referring to the length of Sir Ken’s comedy shows, comedian Gary Delaney paid tribute on Twitter.
Fans also paid their own tributes, one wrote on Twitter: “After my father died in 1990 we took my mother to see #KenDodd at the Palladium. He was the perfect pick-me-up: daft, irrepressible, funny and silly in equal measure. We were all reduced to helpless, crying-with-laughter wrecks. Bravo! #legend.”
Sir Ken made his first professional appearance in 1954 at the Theatre Royal, Stockport, but it would be another decade before he made his West End debut, topping the bill at the London Palladium.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, he was a regular face on TV and worked to a punishing schedule, which he kept throughout his career, seldom taking a holiday.
But in 1989 Sir Ken faced the possibility of a fall from grace when he was charged with eight counts of tax fraud spanning 15 years and involving more than £800,000.
He was later acquitted after a 23-day trial, but the court heard a range of stories about his eccentricity, including hiding more than £300,000 in wardrobes, cupboards and under stairs.
Taking up his career again on his acquittal, Sir Ken enjoyed another season at the London Palladium in 1990 and won a British Comedy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as being voted Top Variety Performer in 1993.
In 2011, he unveiled a “Comedy Carpet” featuring the catchphrases, jokes and names of more than 1,000 comedians at the foot of Blackpool Tower.