Harry Hill has spoken to NME about his status as an indie-loving “6 Music dad”, and the chances of his iconic series TV Burp ever returning to our screens.
The legendary comedian and TV host was speaking to NME at Yard Act’s recent five-night residency at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club – where Hill appeared as a support act alongside other comedians including Phil Jupitus, Ghosts star Lolly Adefope and former Mash Report host Nish Kumar.
“If I ever get asked to open for a band, I turn it down,” Hill told NME after his set. “It’s normally a very different crowd. Normally with comedy, it’s people sitting down and facing the front. There are certain rules to it. When James [Smith, frontman] asked me I said I didn’t think it was a good idea, but then he reassured me. He’s a very persuasive man.”
The comedian insisted that the show as entirely for love and certainly not money (“I would have broken even if I hadn’t lost a 20ft long sock,” he joked), noting that he felt at home with Yard Act.
Asked about the spiritual similarities between himself and the Leeds band, Hill replied: “There’s a lot of humour in what they do. James is very funny and I wonder if he’s ever tried stand-up (hardest job in the world…) This is home turf for them, so I wonder how different it would be if I’d gone out in, say, The Troxy in London.
“It’s very delicate with comedy – you need a certain amount of attention. It’s black or white and you either pull it off or you don’t. If you start badly, then 40 minutes is a long time. Believe me, I’ve done a few of those.”
As well as delivering a cutting impression of Smith (and later joining the band for a cover of Chumbawamba’s ‘Tubthumping’ with Jupitus) Hill spent much of his set mocking the “6 Music dads” in the audience, before telling NME that he counted himself among the population of indie-loving listeners of the BBC radio station and that also “quite likes the charts”.
“As a child of the ‘70s, you couldn’t afford to buy records so it was all about the charts,” he said. “I’ve got an 18-year-old daughter and we listen to Heart together. What I like about Heart is that after the news they say, ‘You’re up to date’ – and that’s always nice to know!”
Asked about how it came about, Hill told us: “Black Midi live are just fantastic. That trademark stop-handbrake-turn-melody-what next? It’s just so drilled, and I couldn’t stop laughing.
“I was warming up for my tour and I was in the small room at Cambridge Junction. I got there and I said to the person who ran it, ‘Who’s in the big room tonight’. She said, ‘Oh, it’s a band, you wouldn’t have heard of them but they’re big fans of yours and they want to say hello’. I said, ‘Oh OK, who’s that, and she said, ‘It’s Black Midi’. I love Black Midi! I heard their song ‘John L’ on 6 Music. I thought they were really great and really funny.”
Hill continued: “They came into my dressing room, these really awkward 25-year-olds and their manager said they’d keep in touch. They asked me to open for them at Somerset House but I thought it was a really bad idea, so then they asked if I wanted to come along to their gig at Village Underground.
“Theirs is a much younger crowd. There are 6 Music dads, but they’re all at the back.”
Harry hill has joined black midi pic.twitter.com/gcBlL5stGu
— Charlie Ralph (@Churlie100) March 8, 2023
Having just wrapped up a lengthy stand-up tour, now Hill is turning his attention to more longform projects before his celebrates his many years as a comedian with a new show.
“I’m making a black and white, silent film with me as a caveman. Nick Helm is in it, although it’s a stretch for him to be in a silent film,” said Hill. “I’ve just done a tour having not done one for 10 years and it’s reminded me that that’s probably what I’m best at. I’ll be 60 in October 2024, so I’m going to do a diamond jubilee show. It’ll be a sort of ‘best of’ thing with some new stuff and some highlights.”
Many will know him for Harry Hill’s TV Burp – the show which mocked and parodied television’s biggest programmes and became a Saturday night schedule favourite when it ran between 2001 and 2012. Fans often call for the show’s return, but Hill insists that it’s time has passed.
“We introduced that cynical voiceover,” said Hill. “There were five of us writing that, where they’d leave a gap and I’d come in do a gag. Now Come Dine With Me and Bake Off do that sort of thing themselves and that killed it for us. Also back then people all watched the same things, so it would be more difficult to do it now [with streaming].
“For me, it was a terrible experience because I had to watch hours and hours of TV. I would love for it to come back, but I’d love for someone else to host it and write it. It could work, but it’s best not to go back to those things, isn’t it. It would be like ‘Free As A Bird’ [The Beatles single recorded and released 15 years after John Lennon’s death].”
Noting how the format inspired other successful TV shows that followed, Hill said: “Oh Gogglebox is great – that’s good in a very different way. It’s not gag after gag in the way that we were, but it’s funny and it can be really affecting. It’s a brilliant conceit.”
Hill did however say that he has “a few things in the pipeline” when it comes to returning to television, “but I’m not hungry for it in the same way”.
“I recently did Mo Gilligan’s show, and he’s brilliant, but I got there for a four hour recording and just thought, ‘I’m glad it’s not just me and I’m just turning up’,” he added.
Hill also co-wrote “TONY!” (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) with Steve Brown, which recently premiered at London’s Leicester Square Theatre and will tour the UK through 2023. Visit here for dates and tickets.
Check out our interview with Yard Act here, where the band spoke to us about teaming up with comedians, upcoming single ‘The Trench Coat Museum’, and what to expect from the follow-up to their Mercury-nominated debut ‘The Overload‘.