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TV Legends: Benny Hill

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tv legends benny hill

The internationally renowned, saucy comedian we know as Benny Hill was born Alfred Hawthorne Hill on January 21, 1924. He grew up in Southampton, a small-ish seaside town in south of England, where his naughty sense of humour was inspired by his grandfather’s taste for variety acts and burlesque shows.

At the tender age of 16, young Alfred left home for London with a CV that listed his talents as a milk cart driver and a salesman at Woolworths. He landed a job as an assistant stage manager and actor. Soon after he adopted the stage name Benny Hill (an homage to his favourite comedian, Jack Benny), he began performing live in variety acts and on the radio.

By 1949, Benny had decided the live stage wasn’t for him and tried his hand at writing. He worked out some sketches, shopped them around, and was given his own TV show, Hi There. It was a great success and in 1955, The Benny Hill Show was born. For 34 years, its mix of cheeky schoolboy jokes, funny sketches, ridiculous songs, and all around silly fun has made its namesake famous all over the world, despite the fact that many of the show’s punch lines were images of half-naked women running away from lecherous old men.

The Benny Hill Show was released in the US in 1979 and it became an unexpected and unprecedented success. But during the politically correct ’80s, Benny’s smutty jokes and double entendres had come under attack. The show was eventually pulled from the air in 1989 because of public pressure. Three years later on April 19, 1992, Benny died in a hospital due to heart trouble.

The Benny Hill Show has been seen in 109 countries and translated in dozens of languages. In 1954, Benny Hill was the Daily Mail’s TV Personality of the Year. In 1971, Benny hit the top of the charts in UK with his song “Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West),” the same year he won a BAFTA. In 1979, he was initiated in the TV Times Hall of Fame, and in 1982 he was deemed the Funniest Man on TV. In 1991, Benny was awarded the Charlie Chaplin Award for Comedy. He is still one the most recognisable British comics, and the one of the world’s favourite comedians.