Harry Hill: ‘I always thought I’d make a good serial killer’

Estimated read time 8 min read

As a doctor, how often does a family member or friend ask: “I’ve got this little thing bothering me and wonder if you’d mind taking a look?” Sigma66
They used to, but the further away I’ve got from it, the less they trust me. I still had my prescription pad until about 10 years ago. It used to be that you could pay to be on the register, which I did, but it wasn’t very much. I used to just prescribe antibiotics for sore throats and stuff. Then they changed the rules, the spoilsports. One comedian – who I won’t name, but he’s better known than you might think – once tried to show me his genital warts at a urinal in the Edinburgh festival. I had no expertise in that area, so I refused to examine the appendage in question.

Did you ever encounter anyone who took umbrage to your treatment of them on TV Burp? Hectormandarin
I found myself in the company of Alan Sugar at the Baftas. He’s not famous for his sense of humour. He said: “My daughter tells me you do an impression of me.” I said: “Actually, it’s my ventriloquist dummy that does the impression, ‘You’re fired, you’re fired, and – with regret – you are fired,” or whatever it was I used to say on TV Burp. He just said: “Nah.” That was his assessment.

Harry Hill on TV Burp.View image in fullscreen

Another time I was at the Royal Albert Hall for the National TV Awards. I had to walk up the red carpet with Dot Cotton because I didn’t have any other celebrity friends. She had to stop halfway to have a fag. Then I saw Phil Mitchell coming towards me. I thought: “Christ, he’s a tough nut, he’s going to thump me.” He came up and said, “Yeah, very funny,” before making his way to the actual person he wanted to see – Barbara Windsor who played his on-screen mum, Peggy Mitchell – standing behind me.

Did you always have yourself in mind to play the lead in The Harry Hill movie? Had you been unavailable, who else might you have cast? TopTramp
I’d much rather have not been in it. All my professional life, I’ve tried to make things I didn’t have to be in. But someone always says: “We won’t be able to get any money if you’re not in it.”

Maybe I should do Harry Hill, the musical. I would love that. It opens with an elderly comedian in his dressing room at the St Albans arena, 2060. You hear a voice: “Five minutes, Mr Hill.” The rest is told in flashback. You’d have to have a Billy Elliot-like character who’s being forced into being a doctor, but really wants to be a comedian. All that aspirational stuff, set against a backdrop of the 70s, the winter of discontent. Actually, I’m beginning to like this idea.

What did you learn most about yourself writing and filming your short film, The Last Caveman? richpelley
I had this idea for a live show that had no language so it could play all around the world – a physical funny comedy. I thought: “Well, cavemen don’t have language.” The idea was I wouldn’t be in it – here we go again – but they said: “Oh, no, you’d have to be, otherwise, you won’t sell any tickets.” I thought: “Right, I’ll have a go myself.” I did a 40-minute version where I emerged from behind this cardboard rock I’d made out of a massive TV box, with fake teeth and this Max Wall hairdo. The audience looked at me as if to say: “When is this going to stop?”

After about 30 minutes, there were a few laughs, so I went away and rewrote it, and did an hour-long version that went so fabulously well I thought the audience were deliberately winding me up to give me false hope. The next gig was going to be Monday but my daughter was sent home from school with a “persistent dry cough”. Does that ring a bell? It was lockdown. I thought I’d go and film it instead, which was on topic as it’s about isolation and loneliness. I’ve taken it around the country and seen it God knows how many times. I do really love it, although it’s difficult to gauge what other people think.

As an iconic, bald celebrity, what advice would you give to a thirtysomething gentleman with thinning hair? Style it out or shave it off? NoMoreMrBungle
Shave it off. You won’t know what’s under there otherwise. I’m lucky. I’ve got quite a nice, rounded bald head. Prior to that, I would spend every waking moment looking in the mirror styling it into various weaves and combovers. Certainly in the 70s and 80s, you never saw younger, bald men. They always had a combover or wigs: Bobby Charlton, Jackie Chan, Frankie Howerd, Bruce Forsyth. When I decided to shave my head, my agent said he thought it was a terrible idea. He said it “wasn’t a very Harry Hill thing to do”.

Have you thought about more serious roles? A Bond villain, maybe? jimboy63
I always thought I’d make a good serial killer. Playing against type, basically. The only thing that has held me back is that I’m not very good at acting. I can only really play for laughs. I do get offered roles, not so much now. I was offered the part of [poet and novelist] Philip Larkin – just because I wear glasses and I’m bald – which [playwright and director] Alan Ayckbourn actually wrote to the Guardian and complained about. I wrote back, “I’m with you on this, Alan,” but he never replied.

‘I always thought I’d make a good serial killer’ … Harry Hill.View image in fullscreen

I was offered the part of Benny Hill. I was offered a musical recently, which I thought was really good and would have been really funny, but I don’t think I could face the same thing over and over again. Plus, if I’m being honest, I don’t like sharing the spotlight. Bond – maybe I could have played Q, when Bond used to be a bit more camp. Now, with the move towards realism, that’s not such good news for Harry Hill, the actor. I did recently do the best job I’ve ever been offered. I play myself in a new TV drama. The lead character knocks on the door. I answer it. He says: “Oh, no, not you!” Then I shut the door. And that’s about the range I’m good at.

How are you feeling as you approach 60? TurangaLeela2
I remember at 30 thinking: “Oh, God, what am I going to do?” At 40, your friends start getting divorced. Fifty was ropey because you start getting a bit tired and also your friends start dying. The truth is, I’ve been doing it so long, that if you took a scan of my brain, you see a hugely overdeveloped organ with humour squeezing out the self-awareness. As a comedian, I think you get funnier as you get older, particularly with my character who has a childlike quality, so it’s even funnier if you see me rolling around on the floor or lying on an ironing board that collapses.

Liam Charles, Harry Hill and Ravneet Gill on Junior Bake Off.View image in fullscreen

What anecdote about yourself would help people understand who you think you are as a person? NickofBrynbuga
On Junior Bake Off, one joke was that I was to get hit by an 8ft inflatable ball covered in carrier bags. I can’t quite remember why. The producer said: “Why don’t you roll on top of the ball down the middle of the tent?” I really went for it, but when I got on top of the ball, I looked down and thought: “I’m going to fall 8ft on my head and die.” I turned my body, smashed my shoulder and had to go to A&E. The nurse said: “How did you do it?” I was wearing a mask as it was Covid so she didn’t recognise me. I said: “I fell on my shoulder.” She said: “But how?” I said: “I dived over an 8ft inflatable ball,” and she said: “Are you Harry Hill?” What that demonstrates is that I’m desperate to please people. If someone says, “Roll down the middle of a tent on top of an 8ft ball,” I’ll say, “Of course I will,” without thinking about the consequences.” I’d pretty much do anything for a laugh if I think it’s a good enough joke.

Source: theguardian.com

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