On the comedy circuit, the 33-year-old Kent- born comic stormed the Edinburgh Festival in l992 with his Flies, scooping The Perrier Award for Best Newcomer.
This naturally funny man, even smaller in real life than you‘d imagine, shares with many of his fellow comics that underlying shyness which feeds their desire for love and fame and is, luckily, adored by critics and public alike. At a press conference to launch Harr_v Hill the series, it is easy to see why. He takes the most banal of questions with good grace and patience, only putting journalists down, albeit mildly, when absolutely necessary. ‘Ask him yourself,’ replies Hill when asked to elaborate on the tales a series guest. Burt Kwouk. has to tell.
Hill still betrays a sense of disbelief when asked about making history on The Late Show With David Letterman. ‘I can only put it down to a fluke of luck.‘ says Hill, thanking his lucky stars. ‘lt‘s just one of those things in the thing we call show business and indeed in life. when you get a foot in the door through a fluke and it leads to other things.
‘I got a call from my agent to talk to them on the phone. So I said: “What do you want me to do, then?” And he said: “We want you to do the five minutes you‘d do on Letterman. Start now."‘ Crikey. ‘So I just did these gags down the phone and he was laughing and I thought: “Oh, that‘s good.“ And they phoned up the next day and asked me to do it.‘
All this television glamour seems light years away from his I990 comedic debut: a five minute open slot in The Aztec, a Mexican restaurant in South London.
‘lt was very nerve-wracking and very exciting,‘ recalls the bespecta- cled, high-collared. gold dog cuff- linked comedian. ‘My fourth gig was in Twickenham. There was complete silence and I had to walk through the audience to get out, went for a pint nearby and got the train home. Alone. I was single then, as well. It took me weeks to get over that night. l thought about giving it all up many times then. Still do.‘
Does this mean Hill is itching to get back to the medical profession he entered in 1988, inspired by his love of Quinta"? ‘I loved that show,‘ recalls Hill, lovingly. ‘It was always the same plot. Quincy‘s doing a post-mortem and he says to the detective: “It looks like murder.“ The detective goes: “No way Quincy. we gotta wrap this ease up. It‘s suicide!“ “It‘s murder!“ “Suicide!” “Murder!” Then they all go down the Chinese restaurant for an argument.‘
After two years of toiling in the wards,
unable to cope with the combined effects of
hangovers and the stench of urine, he decided to earn his crust elsewhere. ‘I think I‘d try everything else before going back to it,‘ he admits. ‘l‘ve been away from it so long that I‘d be a danger to the public. To your family.‘
Anyone doubting that Hill himself could have benefited from some one-to-one medical attention will change their minds with one viewing of the pilot show pencilled in as episode two of Harry Hill. The man is a nutter. Falling from the skies in the Tardis, Hill appears in Colin Baker-period Dr Who garb and utters a stream-of-consciousness monologue before making way for Keith Harris and Orville and their karaoke rendition of The Fugees.
Enter The Royal Jimmy Saville Regiment marching in time to ‘now then, now then'.
'l've got a really good idea for a film which I'm not going to tell you but it's a really big block— buster affair. But if anybody wants me to be
the new Batman, then yeah.’ Harry Hill
followed by spoofs of Play Your Cart/s Rig/1t. Crossroads and Channel 4 News. forgetting Hill‘s adopted son Alan whose sole means of communication is via tap-dancing. the 84-year-old stair-master expert Nana Hill. and Bucks Fin with some badgers. Phew.
Missing from that opening list is Burt Kwouk. world-renowned as lnspector Clouscau‘s sidekick Cato. who kept Peter Sellers‘ blundering dick on his toes by leaping out from behind furniture. down from bookshelves and out from fridge freezers.
‘The thing about him is that if he‘s free he‘ll do anything.‘ says Hill. ‘Hc just likes working. In the show. he tries to attract a chicken with a different outlandish approach each week.‘ What, sexually? ‘Hc‘s trying to get the eggs.‘ I see.
If Burt ever gets those goods, don‘t expect Hill to nab them and stick them all into the one straw container. Having tampered with most
Harry Hill: coming to a TV screen near you
areas of the media, Hill is more than likely to be mentioned in film credits some time soon.
‘I make these little ﬁlms on tour,’ he says. ‘Me and a camera and a few friends. I’ve actually got a really good idea for a film which I‘m not going to tell you but it’s a really big blockbuster affair. But if anybody wants me to be the new Batman, then yeah.’
Hill‘s forthcoming tour video, Harry Hill, Man Alive, includes a stab in the direction of auteurism alongside the mayhem of the on- stage footage. ‘At the end there‘s a film in there about a boy with a big face,‘ says Hill. ‘Which is a nice little film. About a boy who‘s got a big face. He uses it to plug a porthole to save a sinking ship.’
But never mind all that show business stuff, what the nation really wants to know is whether they are ever likely to spot Harry Hill scrambling among the parsnips in Safeways, clothed in ludicrously high collar and thick glasses, with a row of pens protruding from his pocket.
‘Well, I travel to gigs on the tube and stuff but I wear a coat over it to play it down,’ confesses Hill, quite openly. ‘You do get people staring. I get the shirts made specially by a man in Acton. With a massive ironing board.‘
Despite Harry Hill‘s penchant for the bizarre, offbeat, twisted, manic, deranged, bonkers, strange and. lest we forget, darned funny. he wants us to believe he is part of the mainstream.
‘The show has a broad appeal, not particularly bizarre. What do you think?’ Broad appeal? Not particularly bizarre? I ask you, what are the chances of that?
Harry Hill is on Fri 30 May at 10.30pm on Channel 4.
30 May—12 Jun 1997 THE IJST21