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)

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on