Benny Hill, World Famous Comedic Genius
JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of English comedian Benny Hill (1925-1992) dressed as his character Fred Scuttle posed circa 1975. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
British comedian, Benny Hill was quite possibly one of the best known, longest running funny men in recent history; although somewhat underrated. His style was bit quirky, outrageous and wildly inappropriate at times, but he usually got the big laughs!
Like a person’s perception of clothing, cars and, taste in general, many topics are extremely relative. Meaning, it is subjective and what you like may be unappealing or downright repulsive to someone else. That doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. It is simply a personal association. Humor is no exception to this rule. For example, some people have a dry sense of humor, some have a sarcastic sense of humor and some have absolutely NO sense of humor. I can understand how different subjects strike people differently than others, but I will never understand a person with no sense of humor. What a boring life that must be!
Hill had a humble beginning as a milkman but soon landed a few gigs at social clubs, nightclubs and eventually theaters. From there he made appearances on British radio shows. Hill’s given name was Alfred Hill, but he adopted the stage name of “Benny” Hill in honor of his own personal favorite comedian, Jack Benny.
Benny Hill hit British television in the mid-1950’s with the original version of The Benny Hill Show. It was a big success, but nothing compared to what was to come. The original show was a tamer version of what we enjoyed beginning in the 1960’s and 1970’s and going forward. The version I remember among other things always portrayed Hill shamelessly ogling and chasing women around, and/or being chased. No matter how many times he was caught being naughty, he was never deterred. It was so brazen that it was hilarious!
By the time The Benny Hill Show had made it across the pond to America, it was a clever culmination of short sketches and sight gags with everything from raunchy humor to crossdressing. Many of Hill’s skits were known to be “double entendres,” meaning that there was more than one way to interpret them. He was a huge fan of employing slow-motion, fast-motion and time-lapse sequences. The one thing that was always a staple on the show … “Hills’ Angels.” They were scantily-clad women in various costumes and roles.
During this era, the culture in America was changing and Hill knew that. Up until this time, he was limited to the ultra-conservative standards of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Breaking away from the BBC turned out to be a pivotal move in Hill’s career. He was able to make the move to American television, which at the time, was loosening its strict codes of morality and censorship. The rest is history. He was able to create, what has been called, “mini-masterpieces of comedic brilliance.”
Ironically, Hill’s comedic talent came to be recognized by some of his own idols. He was famous for portraying countless characters that people just fell in love with. He was being followed and enjoyed by other comedic legends including Bob Hope and Charlie Chaplin. Other celebrities known to have enjoyed Hill’s comedy style were Mickey Rooney, Burt Reynolds and Walter Cronkite.
In stark contrast to his boisterous, sometimes inappropriate stage personality, Benny Hill was known to be very quiet, private and introverted, although he was forever surrounded by his beautiful “Angels.” He was even known to take some of them out from time to time but reportedly never “made a move”.
Hill liked to be by himself. He would say that he was alone, but not lonely. He never married, although he had been in love, at least enough to propose to three different women, who sadly all turned him down. Many have speculated, over the years, that he was gay, but he laughed wildly at the idea. Some even think he was impotent and died a virgin. Hill took the answer to that mystery to the grave with him, so we may never know.
Benny Hill dabbled here and there with acting appearances in plenty of notable films including Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang in the 1960’s. I am confident, however, that he will be best remembered as the wacky, Benny Hill.
Not everyone one enjoyed his brand of comedy but, to this day, when I hear, “Yakety Sax”, I immediately think of Benny Hill and smile.
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