Benny Hill: British Comedy That Americans Embraced

By | January 20, 2021

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British Comedian and Writer Benny Hill Being chased by his 'Hill's Angels' in the famous closing sequence of 'The Benny Hill Show'. (Photoshot/Getty Images)

On The Benny Hill Show, Benny Hill gave Americans -- and the world -- a form of British comedy that was slapstick and cheeky. The Benny Hill Show aired for over 30 years on British TV, and for over a decade was a syndicated hit in the U.S. Full of double-entendres, silly buffoonish characters, iconic chase scenes and endless mugging by the lovable Hill, The Benny Hill Show was as English as tea and crumpets. It stood apart from Monty Python -- which featured absurdist sketches about German philosophers and the Spanish Inquisition -- in that viewers didn't need an Oxford education to get the jokes. Hill's broad comedy about dim-witted characters (always played by Hill himself) made him one of the most popular comedy performers in the world.

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Alfred Hawthorne was born on January 21, 1924 in Southampton on the south coast of England. Prior to becoming a comedian, he held a variety of jobs, including as a drummer and an assistant stage manager; he eventually adopted the name “Benny” as an homage to his favorite comedian, Jack Benny. After World War II, Hill performed on the radio, debuting in 1947 on Variety Bandbox. Benny Hill made his television debut in the British revue Here’s Mud In Your Eye. He recognized the potential for humor in the medium and he became the first British comedian who found his fame through television. The BBC recognized the strength of his work and he was hired for an additional revue, Hi There! in 1951. The Benny Hill Show then appeared mainly on the BBC from 1955-1968, until Hill signed a contract with Thames Television in 1969. Hill retained significant control over the show, writing all of the scripts and much of the music himself.