The Benny Hill Show (1969-1989) is a British comedy series that cemented the career of one Benny Hill. Strangely, it became far more popular in the United States, leaving a lot of Brits to wonder what all the fuss was about. (Compounded by the fact that it hasn't been shown on network television in Great Britain since 1992.)
The ending song of The Benny Hill Show was "Yakety Sax" by Boots Randolph, an infamous Ear Worm if there ever was one, with the ability to inject relentless levity into any situation. Endlessly parodied; if there's a nonsensical Chase Scene (or anything, really), play "Yakety Sax"!
The Benny Hill Show provides examples of:
- 6 Is 9:
- Benny as a jealous husband breaks into a hotel room and shoots the man and woman in the bed. Then he takes another look at them, looks at the room number, rotates the 6 to a 9, and sheepishly exits.
- Another sketch does the same gag with The Lower Tidwell Fire Brigade chopping their way into a home while on a fire call, which as the mistress of the house angrily points out is three doors down.
- Accidental Pervert: At least when it isn't on purpose. Many skits feature a man who by mistake or accident happens to grope a woman - or, sometimes, another man. Hilarity Ensues.
- Affectionate Parody: Many skits are parodies of a genre (western, war movies, spy movies, wuxia movies...) or a specific film or show. Among the latter are:
- Affectionate Pickpocket:
- In one sketch, three men break out of prison; they reunite and give each other hugs, each of them robbing the others.
- In another sketch, Robin Hood (Hill) has become the new Sheriff of Nottingham. Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet come to congratulate him and he lifts their money pouches as he hugs them, then sics the guards on them.
- Ambiguous Syntax:
- In one sketch, a very bad actress delivers the line, "What is this thing called, love?" while patting her lover's "package".
- In another sketch, another bad actress exclaims, "What's that in the road? A head?" (Watch them here.)
- Artistic License Gun Safety: Mocked in "Murder on the Oregon Express".
- Asian Speekee Engrish: Many skits feature Benny dressed up as a Chinese or Japanese man (or woman), and speaking with a stereotypical "Engrish" accent. Much of the humour builds on the straight man misunderstanding Benny's character because of this, and it also gives the opportunity for many Double Entendres. The racism implicit in these sketches (although the Asian characters are never depicted as inferior to the English, both their looks and patterns of speech are ridiculed) is one reason the show is frowned upon today.
- Aside Glance: The conclusion of many gags, with Benny either grinning at the camera or staring in shock.
- An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost: In one sketch, Benny plays a man who literally dreams of going out partying at night, getting away from his harridan of a wife. Then one day he's out in the daytime he happens by the very same place he goes in his dreams. Amazed, he knocks on the door. A bunch of women answer.Lead woman: You can't come in here!
Benny: Why not?
Woman: This place is haunted!
Benny: [dismissive] Who by?
[Benny looks down, sees himself fading away, and before he completely disappears...]
Benny: [silently] Aw poo!
- Awful Wedded Life: About anytime a married couple is shown.Husband: Good night... mother of six.
Wife: Good night... father of one.
- Baby's First Words: In a segment parodying The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, where they get together and have a son named The Bionic Baby, the boy doesn't speak until he's four years old, whereupon he says his first words: "Phew, man. Wow. Sheep dip. You call this chicken soup?" He claims he'd never spoken before because up until then he hadn't minded the chicken soup.
- Backwards-Firing Gun: Happens in a skit that spoofs The A-Team... especially when it is a bazooka!
- Bandit Clan: In a longform sketch filmed in and for Australia, Hill plays "Benny Kelly, son of Ned Kelly," and the Kelly gang is presented as an extended family.
- "Begone" Bribe: Benny is sitting in the park reading a book called "How to Get Rich". A young boy comes along with a toy trumpet blaring away. Benny buys the trumpet from the boy, then throws it away. Along comes a bunch of kids each with his/her own instrument (led by the trumpet boy, now with a new toy). Benny buys all their instruments, then realizes how much he just spent. He throws the book away and calls trumpet boy over, talking to him and taking notes on how to get rich.
- Big Little Man: Benny and Jackie Wright (a small man, under 5 feet tall) see a pair of wallflowers sitting at a dance. They decide to ask the girls to dance: Benny will ask the tall one and Jackie will ask the short one. The girls accept and stand up, revealing that — due to how the chairs they were sitting on were designed — the "tall one" is short and the "short one" is tall.
- Carload of Cool Kids: This happens at least twice, as part of a skit with a car full of people... and then the car would drive off revealing Benny was not actually in it, and was the loser.
- The Chase: There's typically a pattern — Hill makes an innocent mistake and a guy wants revenge. Guy chases Hill. As Hill runs away, he stumbles and pulls off a girl's bikini top (but the audience never gets to see her boobs) so she chases him. Next guy they run past is the girl's boyfriend, so he chases Hill. Another two guys carry a window across the road, and Hilarity Ensues. The final guy is bald, and as Hill and the chasers pass him they pat his bald head for luck. The Standard Snippet is almost always associated with such scenes.
- Chased Off into the Sunset: The mandatory ending — Benny Hill's character is usually shown being chased off into the horizon by an angry mob. In one episode, there are a lot of female officers standing around as crowd control; Benny, Jackie and McGee are three burglars just placed under arrest by their male counterparts. The sneakier crowd members commit Clothing Damage upon the lady officers' clothes, prompting both the male officers as well as the burglars to give chase to the scantly-clad ladies!
- The Chew Toy: Jackie Wright's character (the small, bald old man) is put to constant, hilarious abuse throughout the show. Especially when Benny slaps the little man on the top of his head!
- Clothing Damage: Happens very often to both male and female characters, in both cases played for laughs, and in the second case for Fanservice as well.
- Crossdresser: This is a British comedy, so naturally it's a given for Benny Hill and Co.
- Delayed Reaction: Henry McGee asks Question #1, but Benny is silent. McGee asks Question #2, then Benny answers Question #1.
- Distracted by the Sexy: A very common gag.
- In one sketch set in WWII, Benny plays a sniper tasked to shoot Hitler. However, as he's testing the sights, he spots a fraulein in skimpy dress by a window. He keeps ogling while distractedly putting together his sniper rifle, which ends up in a twisted, useless shape.
- In another sketch, he plays a messenger in the English Civil War. After putting on women's clothing he flirts with several guards to distract them and knock them out. It doesn't work on the final guard. He has an epiphany and flirts with him as a male instead. It works.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Most of the time when Benny or someone else on the show paws at a woman (or she is convinced they just have), they gets belted for it. Lechery is frequently indulged in and just as frequently punished on this show. This kind of thing was Hill's go-to defense when people accused the show of sexism.
- Ear Trumpet: Several. In the sketch "Benny Kelly, Son of Ned Kelly", Benny pours some alcohol into someone's ear horn and the fluid comes out the man's mouth.
- Edible Bludgeon: The song "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" features a fight between Ernie and his rival Two-Ton Ted who drives the bakers van using wares from their vans. Ernie is killed by rock cake underneath his heart followed by stale pork pie in the eye.
- The Eponymous Show
- Everyone Chasing You: The Trope Codifier, according to that link.
- Fanservice: Lots of scantily-clad, beautiful ladies.
- Fishbowl Helmet: As Fred Scuttle is being interviewed, Hill brings on little Jackie Wright wearing a giant fishbowl as part of his space uniform.
- Fun with Homophones: A serious TV talk show is about Youth in Asia, and a doctor comes on who is under the impression that the subject is euthanasia.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:Hill: [telling a story] ... boy cows.
Hill: It's TRUE, I tell you!
- Giving Them the Strip: An ending chase scene has Benny as an escaped prison inmate evading two bobbies by striping of the jacket and trousers of his Institutional Apparel. Finding new clothes to replace them proves problematic, however.
- Groin Attack: A Running Gag.
- Henpecked Husband: Very common. Up to and including Dracula.
- Hilarity Ensues: Presumably mixed with a little real hilarity.
- Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Usually the "ordinary guy, exceptionally ugly wife" variety. The guys usually are Hill or McGee, the wives are often played by men too. In at least one sketch he married her for her parents' money. Another sketch had him say his wife isn't much to look at "but you can't help who you fall in love with".
- Hot Gypsy Woman: The subject of the song "Rachel".
- Institutional Apparel: Sketches taking place in prison have the British arrow-covered uniforms. Some gags are milked out of it, such as Benny standing in a line with other inmates, whose arrows, both on the right and the left, all point toward him, while the arrows of his own uniform point upwards, toward his face.
- Jeweler's Eye Loupe: In a sketch with Benny as Robin Hood, he's about to kiss the hand of a wealthy lady when he notices the many jeweled rings and bracelets she's wearing. Robin pulls a (completely anachronistic) eye loupe to better examine them, before robbing her blind.
- Jump Cut:
- Used for the intentional "jump cut to a dummy falling from a great height into jump cut to character getting up after falling" gag.
- Much of the point of Passengers of Love, a romantic movie that makes The Man Who Saves the World look well-edited.Girl: Oh, he's a very influential person. His mother is... [cut] Edward Heath.
- Kiss Up the Arm: Gender Inverted and parodied in a sketch/dance sequence parodying the "Naughty Bits" of The Kenny Everett Show. In this version the (old, ugly) men play the parts normally done by young women and young women have the male roles. A woman kisses up an arm, finds the face of Benny Hill at the top, gives a disgusted Aside Glance, and kisses back down the arm to go away.
- Laugh Track
- Lingerie Scene: The show features lots of scenes with women in their underwear, often as a result of Clothing Damage or Wardrobe Malfunctions.
- Literal Metaphor:
- A prison scene has a piano against a brick wall, and the narrator states, "During this dark time, music was his only escape," followed by Benny climbing on top of the piano to get over the wall.
- In a sketch on the beach, Benny is reading a book titled How to Pick Up Girls. Then, he tries to physically lift a swimsuit-clad beauty, and gets slapped for it.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Many of the characters played by Benny, whether he portrays a Dirty Old Man or a hormone-addled teenager.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: B.A. Baracus pulls one of these in The B-Team after Hannibal, Face, and Murdock seem more concerned about the possible damage to the Golden Eagle statue they are trying to recover than they are about B.A. having just been shot. When a rebel steals the Eagle back, B.A., the only Francophone on the team, asks him where it is; when Hannibal tells him the Eagle is worth $10 million and that the rebel will face twenty years in prison if he doesn't talk, B.A. gets him to confess the location of the Eagle, then tells Hannibal he still won't talk. While the other team members drag the rebel away, B.A. locates the Eagle and quips, "Dix millions de dollars — pour moi!" before leaving on a motorbike, with the rest of the team in hot pursuit.
- Mouthing the Profanity: At the end of several sketches a post-punchline shot will show Benny's character giving a disgusted take to the camera and mouthing "Oh, poo!"
- Never Mess with Granny: "Wonder Gran"
- Offscreen Teleportation: Comes with the Scooby-Dooby Doors. A frequent gag is the fact that the characters would exit one side of the screen, then appear on the other.
- Pan and Scan:
- Spoofed in one skit where the movie Deep in My Heart is rendered in fullscreen as Deep in My Ear; and then we repeatedly hear suggestive dialogue before the scene pans over to reveal an innocent context.
- Partially shown title were a common gag. For example, "The Police Raid in Waterloo Station" starts with the title "LICE IN LOO".
- Panty Shot: Many.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Hannibal Smith's tendency to use these in The A-Team is spoofed in the 1984 B-Team sketch. Hannibal jumps behind a pile of boxes and re-appears dressed in stereotypical Middle Eastern garb, complete with beard and sunglasses... only for half a dozen people in quick succession to walk past and say, "Hi, Hannibal!"
- Parody Commercial: A lot of the shorter sketches, usually used as filler between the longer ones.
- The Peeping Tom: In one episode, Benny is peeping through a beautiful woman's window when a policeman grabs him by the shoulder and says, "You are under arrest for being a peeping...". At this point the woman starts undressing and both Benny and the policeman can only stand there, entranced by the view. Once the woman is down to bra and panties she draws the shades (still unaware that she was being watched) and the policeman grabs Benny again and finishes his arrest by saying, "Tom!"
- Pervy Patdown: One sketch has Benny playing a wrestler. The referee tries to pat him down to check for weapons and he flinches away.
- Plank Gag: Used with frequency.
- Planning with Props: A long sketch where Benny et al. are German POWs during World War II. They are planning an escape and Benny is using various food items — mostly pastry — to make a model of the camp. During his explanation of how they are going to escape, one of the other prisoners picks up the slice of pound cake which represents the gate and starts eating it.
- Profile View Gag: Used with soccer boots larger than expected in this short scene.
- Prompting Nudge: During a big production number by the Volunteer Fireman's Brigade, the Captain pushes a dimwitted member out in front so he can introduce the Captain. The Captain ends up Playing Cyrano, feeding him the introduction phrase by phrase, then acts surprised when he "discovers" that he's the one being talked about.
- Rake Take: Another common gag, usually coupled with Groin Attack.
- Real Vehicle Reveal: In a filmed sketch about the National Health Service, Benny is a private patient while another lower-class looking person is going through the public way. At the end of the sketch Benny is seen perched in a late model convertible; the lower class guy is then seen getting in the car and driving away, revealing that Benny is sitting on a bicycle. Also see Carload of Cool Kids above.
- Running Gag: Benny mistaking some innocuous word as being like saying "bullshit" and replying "It's true, I tell you!"
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: A staple of the show. When another show use this trope and it isn't inspired by Scooby-Doo, it's likely to be a Benny Hill allusion.
- Shameful Shrinking: Happens to Benny Hill (via bluescreen) in an '80s sketch where a girl chews him out for being sexist — obviously intended as a Take That! to RL critics who claimed he was.
- Sheet of Glass: A running gag during one chase features a sheet of glass carried by two workers, narrowly escaping destruction several times... then the chasers finally just run through it, as if the glass weren't there... and the two carriers drop the sheet.
- Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Many a lady singer would do this, and at times, Benny himself would do this, too.
- Slip into Something More Comfortable: In the song "Anna Marie":She said "Now we're alone, let's get cosy
I'll put something more comfortable on".
And I stood there biting my fingernails
For the full half an hour she was gone.
The door burst open, she stood there,
With all of my mates from the docks.
And they all sang Happy Birthday to You,
And all I had on was my socks!
- Special Effect Failure: Usually quite intentional.
- The most common of it is replacing a falling character with an obvious dummy.
- The parody of The Avengers involves a Fight Scene with very obvious cuts to "stunt doubles" that look absolutely nothing like the protagonists.
- The Police Raid in Waterloo Station is a criminal action movie parody consisting mostly of special effect failures. Actors change clothes between shots (at least once during a shot); director's reflection gets caught by a camera; stagehands are seen hiding behind furniture or outside the airplane; walls are so thin, they shake when Benny opens a door; Benny gets a full glass of wine, starts drinking from a half-full glass, continues with a beer mug; when Benny kisses a woman, his moustache stays on her lip, then returns in the same shot; "dead" people try to straighten their clothes and jerk when stepped on; actors say wrong lines with wrong voices; the airplane and the ship are not only obvious plastic models, but a ship-sized duck swims by in one shot.
- Standard Snippet: Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" for chase scenes. This show went a long way toward making it a Standard Snippet in the first place. So much so that "Yakety Sax" is often referred to as "The Benny Hill Theme", with many people not knowing its real title, or realizing that it wasn't written for the show.
- Stripping Snag: One of the most common form of Wardrobe Malfunction, usually accompanied by an exaggerated Stock Sound Effect of fabric ripping. For example in one sketch, some coppers (male and female) are giving chase to Benny, and have to go past a barbwire fence. After struggling for a bit, they go through but all of them snag their uniforms in doing so, ripping them off at the exact same time and leaving them in their underwear.
- Stripping the Scarecrow: Played With in "Butch Cafferty and the Fundance Kid". Cafferty (Hill) strips a man in the Turkish baths of his clothes but later discovers that a Scarecrow possesses absolutely identical ones.
- Suicide Dare: Benny is a minister who happens upon a man (offscreen) who is threatening to jump off a ledge. Benny tries to talk him down but the guy will have none of it.Benny: Don't jump! Think of your wife and family.
Man: I am. That's why I'm jumping.
Benny: Think of next Saturday, going to Elland Road and seeing our beloved Leeds United play?
Man: I hate Leeds United. I'm a Liverpool fan.
Benny: Well, flaming well jump then!
- Supernatural Repellent: In a "Wonder Gran" sketch, Dracula is repelled by a picture of Nicholas Parsons, who was a Benny Hill Show regular. Nicholas Parsons is the sort of clean-living, squeaky-clean TV and radio personality who a young damsel could trust with her virginity, her wealth, or her aging parents, knowing they're in safe hands. Comedians make much mirth from the sort of personality this implies — either oleaginously greasy, or else utterly boring. But he is regarded as a National Living Treasure and by all accounts is a totally decent and likable guy. Dracula would be repelled.
- Tablecloth Yank: In one of the episodes, Benny Hill does that to several tables, leaves and comes back with new ones to preform an inversion of this trope.
- Take That!: The scripts often took swipes at other entertainment personalities.
- In the 1979 sketch "Wonder Gran Meets Dracula", Dracula appears to have Wonder Gran cornered, but as he goes in for the kill, she holds up a photo, to which Dracula reacts as though she is holding up a crucifix. After she wards him away several times, the picture is revealed to be a publicity photo of a smiling Nicholas Parsons (who had been Benny's straight man in the early Thames series but had moved on to Sale of the Century by 1979).
- The B-Team, a spoof of The A-Team from 1984, opens with a group of rebel soldiers having tied up two servants. They demand to know the location of a valuable golden eagle statue, but the servants won't talk. The rebels switch on the television, which proclaims, "Your friend — and his... Bernard Manning!" The servants immediately give up the location of the statue, and the rebels remark, "Works every time!"
- Terrible Pick-Up Lines: Used in a blackout sketch. A fairly typical line is delivered, but neither party seems to be able to follow-up on it.Benny: If I told you you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?
Benny: [confused look]
- Thanks for the Mammary: A common gag.
- Theme Song: "Yakety Sax" is also used as the final theme music. Fitting, since the final credits always run over a chase scene.
- Tied Up on the Phone: A sketch has appliances come to life and attack humans; at one point a phone cord wraps itself around Hill.
- Twinkle Smile: Often parodied. Twinkle eyes, too.
- Twitchy Eye: Among Benny's various grimaces, this one is common when he's excited, or about to snap.
- Undercrank: Standard procedure for the obligatory chase scenes with speedy albeit hilarious results.
- The Unintelligible: A frequent bit; Hill would play the part of an foreigner with an utterly incomprehensible accent or dialect being interviewed. Hilarity resulted as the host attempted to make sense of what he said, with many hilarious and often off-color misunderstandings.
- Vandalism Backfire: The subject of a Patter Song. A gentleman goes into his rail compartment and finds a hippie seated there. Gentleman tells hippie to get out, hippie doesn't pay attention. Eventually the gentleman throws the hippie's suitcase out the window, "now what do you think about that?" "It's not my bloody case."
- Vapor Wear: Especially in the shows from the late 1970s, many of the women wear thin tops without bras.
- Vocal Dissonance: Often male singers would sing in feminine registers, and vice versa. Alternatively, Hill would play a child or woman speaking sweetly, until a "blooper" occurs and the director yells at him. Hill's voice then changes to a gruff, throaty East-Ender accent as he complains.
- Wacky Sound Effect
- Waiting Skeleton: One episode, after fleeing from a room, Benny finds himself on a ledge outside a window, with no way to go back since a woman locks the window behind him. He then notices a skeleton standing on the same ledge and tears up at the thought of being stranded here forever.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: A staple of the show. However contrived, you can bet that every sort of possible freak accidents will happen to the clothes of any sexy woman in most sketches (usually with a very exaggerated ripping sound) and leave her in her underwear. Though the males of the cast aren't entirely spared either, but there it's purely for humor and never fanservice.
- When Props Attack: Benny plays a TV nature presenter parodying David Attenborough. One of the animals he shows is a large spider, which is really a prop that Benny slips onto his hand and his fingers are the spider's legs. While Benny is holding the "spider" and talking about it, the spider crawls up Benny's chest towards his neck. Benny drags the spider back down to abdomen level, and it starts crawling up again. He also gets attacked by an offstage "elephant", which is somebody's arm in a gray sleeve simulating the elephant's trunk.
- Wishing Well: A short silent sketch has Benny as an old man with his old wife comes across a wishing well. He throws a coin in, his wife disappears, replaced by a young bikini-clad bird. She then throws in a coin, and a muscular stud appears. He throws a coin in, and the bikini-clad girl disappears. Benny throws one last coin, and the muscle man disappears and his wife reappears.
- Writing Around Trademarks: One Benny Hill sketch has a pretty woman, frustrated by all the pawing she is receiving, turning green and Hulking Out. Legend had it that when Marvel Comics found out, they created She-Hulk to prevent this from happening again. (In truth, they created She-Hulk as a response to The Incredible Hulk TV series, fearing the producers would create a spinoff the way network execs did with The Six Million Dollar Man.)
- You Can Leave Your Hat On:
- One sketch has Benny as clown performing a wacky striptease. It ends with him stripping off his skin until he's nothing but a dancing skeleton.
- That sketch was preceded by one in which several women, already scantily dressed, pantomime taking off clothes to appropriate music.
- Another sketch involves Benny and a lady in a supermarket reacting to the piped-in music. The last tune is "The Stripper", so Benny takes off his gloves, and is arrested.
- Zipperiffic: Benny as a biker. After trying out all his zippers for his money pouch, his girlfriend finally zips his mouth.