IMAGINE finding your true calling when you were in your early teens and then living out that dream for the entirety of your long career.

That was what Ken Dodd did.

No wonder he was famous for his buck-teeth grin. That smile, that happiness was no act or public mask.

When he was about 14 he discovered a love for entertaining when he saw an advert in Wizard magazine that said: 'Fool your teachers, amaze your friends – send six pence in stamps and become a ventriloquist'.

I know how important that moment was for Ken because he told me it line-for-line every time I interviewed him.

Now you have got to remember that this moment and those words he was reciting happened more than seven decades ago.

He told it like it was yesterday. I won't flatter myself – it was a polished anecdote no doubt told to probably hundreds of journalists. Maybe thousands over the decades.

But on those occasions he was telling it to me with a kind of uncynical, unguarded wit and enthusiasm that made it feel like we were old friends.

Ken was a legend, no doubt and I sometimes took that for granted. 

He was the last bastion of a once vibrant variety scene that we will never see again on that level.

And yet he was generous with his time. He'd answer all my questions and then usually ask me some.

He often asked me about family and thought my son had a funny name (Ethan) which still makes me smile.

Usually when you interview a comic, who spends the majority of their year on tour, you'll be in a 'queue' with other reporters to speak to them over the phone.

When you finally get your slot you usually have a strict 10 or 15 minutes with them and then half the time they can't be bothered to chat to you and your heart sinks. 

Ken never made it a hassle or a chore. 

A good example of this was that the last time I spoke to the Knotty Ash icon he was about to travel to the capital to receive The Freedom of the City of London.

He was busy and yet happy to talk to a nosy journalist about his knighthood which he received and delighted him a year before his death. 

OK, Ken was still living in the past a bit but that was part of the charm. 

He'd always say during our chats something like: "When's feet up, fags out time? When are you lot off to the pub?"

I've been with the Guardian for quite a while but sadly never long enough to experience the joys of post-deadline 'feet up, fags out'.

And I imagine Ken would have been taken aback if he saw the reality of how busy a post digital and social media age news room is these days, usually with half the staff putting the articles together compared to the golden days of the 1950s and 60s.

His taste in comedy was just as unashamedly old school.

Ken hated cringe humour because he didn't like the idea of people feeling awkward. 

I once asked at my peril if he liked Ricky Gervais's The Office. There was a pause and then he said with a slight snarl: "What do you think?" 

Ken's humour was all about inclusion, everyone being in on the joke.

Imagine any other comedian calling their routine The Happiness Show – you'd instantly think it was sarcastic.

He'd have his little quirks too. For example he never picked up his phone straight away because he screened his calls.

I'd have to call and leave an awkward message like: 'Erm, it's David from the Warrington Guardian, I've arranged an interview at this time...'

Then there would be the brief crackle of the receiver. Ken's showbiz demeanour would kick in and then off he'd go.

I reckon Ken was rarely out of showbiz mode. He lived for it and he was no doubt devastated when he had to cancel his date at Parr Hall due to ill health that would have taken place in April. 

His love of the stage is probably what kept the 90-year-old living so long.

He told me something 'magical' happened between him and the audience during every performance and that 'spell' made him feel 30 years younger.

Ken was also proud to regularly return to Warrington because he cut his teeth in the town's working men's clubs and he first topped the bill not in Liverpool but at Warrington's Royal Court in 1957.

He was a proud northerner, a one of a kind and things will never quite be the same again.