Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Apple #27: Benny Hill


As requested, here's some info on the British comedian who often ran around very fast on his show, performed slapstick, and leered after women.
  • Born in January 1924, in Southampton, England
  • Real name: Alfred Hawthorne Hill. He adopted the name Benny Hill in homage to his favorite comedian, Jack Benny.
  • Held jobs as a milk cart driver and a salesman at Woolworth's before becoming a comedian
  • Performed in live variety acts on stage and on the radio for several years. In 1949, he began writing sketch comedy.
  • In 1955, at the age of 31, he started his own TV show with the BBC. This made him one of the frontrunners of television comedy in England. The show ran for more than 30 years and was aired in over 100 countries.
  • In 1979, the show was aired in the US. While some thought that British humor wouldn't translate to American tastes, "The Benny Hill Show" became massively popular with its bawdy jokes that were considered risque compared to other shows on American television.
  • The signature music for his show was the song "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)," parodying his early job as a milkman
  • He also appeared as the toymaker in "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews
  • In the 1980's, as his popularity soared in America, his show was on the decline in Britain. While he cranked up the "slap and tickle" humor, exactly these types of jokes were found increasingly offensive as more people embraced feminism. In 1989, his show was canceled due to public pressure.
  • He never married, though he proposed to two women.
  • He never owned a car or a house. He remarked that his favorite possessions were his TV and his VCR.
  • In 1992, he died of a heart attack at the age of 68. Some reports say he was in the hospital; others say he was alone in his apartment watching TV. He was worth an estimated 140 million pounds (about $260 million).

Museum of Broadcast Communications, Benny Hill
BBC's Guide to Comedy, Benny Hill
BBC America, The Benny Hill Show
The Benny Hill Page Biography
The Benny Hill Songbook

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