Last laughs from Benny Hill's school of humour: Ostracised at home, the comedian received a warm reception in the US. David Lister reports

BENNY HILL'S last sketch. It sounds like the title of a depressive piece of fringe theatre. But in fact it is exactly what it says, the last piece of comedy recorded by Hill shortly before his death in 1992, and not yet seen in Britain.

The comedian, though, was indeed depressed. His executive producer, Don Taffner, said yesterday that Hill was suffering from melancholy in between the bouts of filming, dejected by the way he had been refused access to the airwaves in Britain - the victim of a prevailing political correctness.

The setting of Hill's last sketches is untypical, a bar on the South Street seaport in New York where many of the familiar music- hall style gags take place.

In another sketch he is chased by a bevy of young women, again a typical and admittedly flagging ending to his shows, but this time the park is Central Park. Ostracised by British television, Hill wrote and filmed his final sketches in New York. The comedian made two half-hour shows for American audiences a few months before his heart attack. The first, under the title, Benny Hill Unseen, will be shown tonight on ITV, the second next month.

Mr Taffner, the American television executive who produced the shows, said yesterday: 'Benny was very happy during the filming but terribly melancholy as soon as it had finished. He really felt hurt the way he was treated in the UK.'

The comedy in the last Benny Hill sketches is overall fairly typical of the visual gags of his later years, but there are throwbacks to the more intellectually inventive Hill. For his American audience he indulges in a parody of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. He plays both the Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh parts, with evident parodies of both. Again the humour is of the music hall variety. 'There's not even a lock on the lavatory.' 'What's the difference? There's nothing worth stealing.'

The television sketches were the first the comedian made outside the United Kingdom, and were intended for a series, Benny Hill's World Tour, which was never completed. These sketches take place in New York. Others were planned for Australia and the far east. In 1991, when the sketches were filmed, British television had made Hill an outcast.

Thames Television refused to make any more shows even though they were by far its biggest earning exports with Benny Hill being watched in almost every country in the world. Accusations of sexism had frightened television executives into dropping Hill from the schedules.

The idea of taping a series in the United States was suggested to Hill by Mr Taffner. He told him American fans wanted to see him in an American setting. Hill was doubtful.

Mr Taffner recalls the comedian telling him: 'I want the subject of our sketches to be part of US culture. After all.

'There are certain words that are perfectly innocent in England, but can be very objectionable when used in America,' though he added almost bitterly, 'American audiences have more enthusiasm than their British counterparts and they're not afraid to show it.'

The programmes which have been shown in the US received rave reviews there. As well as Hill's regular cast, they include the actress, Lee Meredith, and Joey Faye, a star of American vaudeville since the Thirties.

Ironically, the mini-Hill revival comes just after the critically acclaimed West End opening of the play Dead Funny which tells of a Dead Funny Society, an obsessive group of Benny Hill worshippers.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Teaching Assistants needeed in Bury...

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam