Some of it isn't great, if I'm honest | Harry Hill looks back at his old Channel 4 show

Some of it isn't great, if I'm honest

Harry Hill looks back at his old Channel 4 show

Harry Hill speaks about Whatever Happened to Harry Hill, the entirely made-up ‘documentary’ about his original Channel 4 series which ran from 1997 to 2000.

Channel 4 asked me to do a kind of compilation type show. And I thought that might be a bit straightforward. I remembered watching Steps Reunion whilst I was doing TV Burp. It was a brilliant show. The surviving members of Steps were all interviewed separately. They were saying ‘I fell out with him and she fell out with me.' Can they get together for one last show? and all the rest of it.

So I thought I could do a spoof documentary. I would do a spoof of the Steps thing where the idea was all four had fallen out: Big Brother Alan, Bert Kwouk and all the rest of the original cast. The show was cancelled amid scandal. Can we get together for one last reunion?

Two of the original cast members had died sadly [announcer Barrie Gosney and Shiela Dunn, who played Harry’s mum]. Otherwise everyone was really keen. It was a lot of fun to do. It's all been a real laugh, and we've kept in contact. I'd never watched the old shows since and it was a lot of fun watching back all the old clips. I'd forgotten how much was in it.

I was watching it thinking ‘I can't remember what happens next’. I don't even remember filming those bits. It's not like it was 100 years ago, you just kind of move on. It didn't come out on DVD and it wasn't really repeated. It was a bit of a footnote.

There was a lot of singing and dancing in it which you don't really see on Channel 4. You don't see many comedy shows that do that. I remember it being a real drag at the time because I had to learn all these routines.

We had this choreographer who taught me (you know, I'm not a natural dancer!) But actually it was really good fun to watch. There was me dancing with a giant Stouffer. Each show we had a finale song where we'd have some sort of dancing - very basic stuff.

I always picked the songs, and it was a very odd mix. They were songs that were in the charts at the time. Like Supergrass, a bit of Pulp. It was the Britpop era so there was a lot of that. But then there'd be a Fleetwood Mac song and god knows what, really odd choices looking back.

I learned how to do TV on Channel 4. The director of the Harry Hill Show was this old guy Robin Nash who had directed The Two Ronnies and Top of The Pops was his big thing. So I learned a hell of a lot from him, just on how to use the cameras, and about talking direct down the camera.

I learned a lot in a very condensed amount of time. It was too much for one person to do really, I wrote it all myself. It's a lot of stuff to come up with. That's why some of it isn't great if I'm honest.

It was really, really difficult to get guests. And we very rarely got anyone we really wanted. That's a lesson I learned: ‘don't make a show where you rely on celebrity guests'. Because you start with a list and a good joke for a celebrity and then the celebrity says no.

You work down the list and you end up getting someone and the joke doesn't really work but you're kind of stuck with it. With TV Burp we always made a feature of not having celebrities as such. Just having people that we could book - some bloke in the background of a scene of EastEnders.

Comedy is a victim of fashion as much as any art form or popular culture, so you'll always have perceived trends but fundamentally I don't think comedy has ever changed for hundreds of years.

You always have types. A camp comic - so you've got Alan Carr, previously it would have been Julian Clary, before that it would have been Frankie Howerd. You'd have a blue comic or a cheeky chappie type; at the moment it's probably Lee Mack, before that it was Max Miller. Then you get the silly bloke... so me at one time, now it's probably Keith Lemon. There are always types.

I'm not really on top of it but it seems to me it's never been more populist. Millions of people wanting to be comedians and there's never been more variety. It's enormously popular - people like Michael McIntyre, John Bishop - they're going out and playing to hundreds of thousands of people. The question is can it last, I suppose? Let's hope so. Let's hope it lasts until I do my tour anyway. That would be ironic wouldn't it?

There's a bit of trepidation now I'm going on tour for the first time for ages. A lot of people don't know I used to do stand-up. A lot of people just know me for TV Burp and the stand-up is quite different. Not hugely different but it's a bit different to the TV Burp.

What I always thought was great when I left medicine and went into so-called show business, was that hopefully you've got various options. Variety. I wouldn't want to tour all year round. I look at other stand ups that do that and think it would drive me mad. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to do TV all the time. I got a bit fed up of doing it. What you want is to do a bit of both. So I'm doing stand-up now,.

As for things that make me laugh, I like silly stuff I suppose.

In stand-up, I like eople who surprise me. If you're a comedian you look for different things. Sean Lock is one of my favourites. Stewart Lee - I remember going to see Stewart before I became a comedian and thinking he was great. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer - I'm interested in seeing what they're doing for Funny Fortnight. I've heard it's really good. I like Spike Milligan- he was a big thing for me when I was a kid. Going back further I liked Brucie, Eric and Ernie and all those guys. Oh, and Danielle, a friend of mine. If you know someone you tend to laugh at different things

Whatever Happened to Harry Hill? airs on Channel 4 on Thursday August 23, and he will be touring the UK in spring 2013. Interview courtesy of Channel 4.

Published: 14 Aug 2012

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