Harry Hill, real name Matthew Hall, was born in Woking, Surrey, on 1st October 1964. He is married to Magda, who is a freelance illustrator and played the postman in “The Boy with the Big Face” on his Man Alive video, as well as having three daughters, Kitty, Winnie and Frederica. He was educated at Cranbook School in Kent.
His initial career was as a doctor, where he trained up at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London. He started comedy as a sideline, performing as the Hall Brothers, telling gynaecological gags to fellow medical students. When he failed the first part of the exam to get into the Royal College of Physicians in 1990, he gave up medicine and turned to being a comedy writer and stand-up performer as his profession, saying he would try comedy out for a year, but still work as a locum. One of Harry’s first gigs was at a club in Greenwich, for which he was paid £80 cash.
Harry has a defined look to him, with his large collars, old-style glasses, pens and badges, as well as his baldhead! But, this is definitely his characteristic look, with his regular attire being more relaxed and “back to reality”. This is one of his unique characteristics, with his performance and shows always featuring him in his set attire. He has said that his main inspirations for his work are Morecambe and Wise, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, Al Murray, Reeves and Mortimer and of course, Morrissey. Harry has previously had catchphrases, which have been less used through the current times, but include “What are the chances of that happening?”, and more recently for “TV Burp,” “There is only one way to find out….fight!”
Harry has had a wide and varied career, starting his mainstream career in media through his show on BBC Radio, with his show “Harry Hill’s Fruit Corner.” The show started in 1993 and ran for four series. It featured many of the characters from his future Channel 4 show, Nana Hill, Big and Little Brother Alan Hill, Burt Kwouk and Finsbury Park, as well as Jan and Tony Hill, Harry’s parents, as well as celebrity guests each week, such as Ronnie Corbett and Rolf Harris. The show had four episodes in the first series in 1993, but returned with six episodes for the later series in 1994, 1995 and 1997, due to the popularity of the show. Later in his career, he revisited radio, this time working on Capital Radio with his Sunday show “Funch.”
He then moved onto his first foray into television, again with the BBC in 1994, aptly following on from his radio show with the name “Harry Hill’s Fruit Fancies.” Airing on BBC2 as 6 15minute shows in black and white, with only background music and no voice, each week dealt with a different subject, with a plotline interweaved. There were the usual twists and turns, as well as some of his most classic gags, featured in the show. The show included his soon-to-be usual suspects of Matt Bradstock and Al Murray, as well as co-star Brenda Gilhooly, who also starred in “Fruit Corner” and the third series of his Channel 4 show, mainly playing Harry’s wife. The show aired for one series, from 19th September to 24th October 1994 at 10.15pm, and was also produced and directed by Jamie Rix.
He later moved onto Channel 4, working on Saturday Live in 1996, and then starting one of his best known shows, “The Harry Hill Show,” which lasted for three series, the last being in 2000. The show, which was later shown on Paramount Comedy Central, had critical acclaim, cited as being very “different” to the other comedy currently around. The show was a mixture of sketches and featured Harry’s “family” of Nana Hill, Mum, May Sung, Big and Little Brother Alan, Finsbury Park and Burt Kwouk, who also featured in series 3 and 4 of “Fruit Corner”. The show attempted to end with badger parade, but there was always a reason why the parade could not take place. Key badgers were Gareth Southgate Badger and Tasmin Archer Badger. The first series aired from 30th May to 18th July 1997 at 10.30pm. The cast included Burt Kwouk, Al Murray, Matt Bradstock, Barrie Gosney, Steve Bowditch, Evie Garratt, Dax O’Callaghan. It was produced by Charlie Hanson. A second series followed in 1998 and the final series in 2000. In series three, a host of new characters were introduced, such as The Man from The Joy of Sex (Kenn Ford) and the character of Gary, who was the then controller of Channel 4 (the dummy used is now Harry’s son Gary in recent live shows and also Lord Sugar on TV Burp), but two favourites, Nana Hill and Finsbury Park left.
The show introduced us to Stouffer, Harry’s cat friend. Stouffer, a blue rubber cat, was found sitting on a throne, with a false arm, inspired by Rod Hull. In the show, Stouffer was employed to intimidate guests in his stand-up routines and as part of a strange children’s TV parody sketch on his TV show. Stouffer’s catch phrase is Respect Due.
The show was dropped by Channel 4, after rating dropped, but Harry quickly moved on, and was found next at ITV. Harry started with “The All New Harry Hill Show,” which was a reworking of the previous Channel 4 show, with a large budget and guests such as the Hamiltons for the Hamilton Challenge, as well as the Butterfly in Blue Jeans finale. However, this did not prove a ratings success. However, Harry moved onto a new format, “TV Burp”, which was a comic look on the week’s TV, identify the funny side of TV. The show, which has moved from late night to Saturday primetime over the series from 2001, features clips, celebrities and a live audience. The show has continued to grow and moved primetime slot.
In 2004, Harry took over “You’ve Been Framed,” and added a comic slant to the show as the voiceover. In another new foray in recent times, Harry made a 13 part series for CITV, “Harry Hill’s Shark Infested Custard,” which was seen as a logical progression, due to his family friendly humour. The show, which moved back to the same style of the old Channel 4 and ITV show, was based around Harry, Stouffer, Gary (Harry’s son from another marriage, as well as being Controller of Channel 4!) and a varied new range of characters. The show ran for two series.
In recent years, other television projects have included various promotional appearances and This Is Jinsy and Little Cracker on Sky. He has also moved online with Harry Hill’s Little Internet Show.
Guest appearances include Children’s Party at the Palace for the Queen’s 80th Birthday, as well as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway on 14 October 2006, alongside Al Murray, The New Paul O’Grady Show on 8 November 2006, TMi in the start of 2007 and Richard and Judy in January 2007. He regularly appears on chat shows, such as Jonathon Ross and Michael Parkinson, as well as featuring in Comic Relief’s videos and on the night activities.
Tours have been a major aspect of Harry, with tours inlcuding Hooves (2005/2006), We Know Where You Live, Live! (2001), Birdstrike! (2000), First Class Scamp (1998/1997), Man Alive (1997), Autumn ‘96 Comeback Special (1996), Spring Tour (1996), Harry Hill Live (1995), Savlon 2000 (1995) and Pub Internationale (1994).
Harry has won a wide number of awards. He has been nominated/won the following:
BAFTAs: 2007/2008/2009? (Entertainment Performance for TV Burp), 2007 (Entertainment Programme for TV Burp), 2009/2010/2011 (Nominated for Entertainment Performance for TV Burp), 2008/2009/2010 (Nominated for Entertainment Programme for TV Burp), 2004 (Nominated for Comedy Programme or Series for TV Burp), 1997 (Nominated for Best Light Entertainment (Programme or Series))
LA BAFTAs: 2008 (Comedy Performer), 2009 (Nominated for Comedy Performer)
British Comedy Awards: 2010, 2009, 2006 (Comedy Entertainment Personality), 2009, 2008, 2006 (Comedy Entertainment Programme), 1997 (New TV Comedy), 2011, 2010, 2008 (Nominated for Comedy Entertainment Programme for TV Burp), 2011 (Nominated for Comedy Entertainment Personality for TV Burp, Male TV Comic for TV Burp and Best Sketch Show for This Is Jinsy), 2010 (Nominated for Male TV Comic and People’s Choice Award)
Comedy.co.uk Awards: 2008 (Panel Show/Satire for TV Burp), 2006-2010 (Nominated for TV Burp)
100 Greatest Stand Ups: 18th in 2010, 5th previously
Broadcast Awards: 2010 (Nominated for Best Comedy Programme for TV Burp)
RTS: 2007/2009 (Entertainment Performance for TV Burp), 2008 (Entertainment Programme for TV Burp), 2005/2008 (Nominated for Entertainment Performance for TV Burp)
TV Choice Awards: 2008/2009/2010/2011 (Nominated for Best Entertainment Show for TV Burp + You’ve Been Framed in 2010)
Edinburgh International Television Festival Awards: 2009/2010 (Nominated for Best Terrestrial Programme of the Year for TV Burp)
NTAs: 2007/2008/2009/2010 (Nominated for Comedy Programme for TV Burp), 2009/2010/2011 (Nominated for Entertainment Presenter), 2010/2011 (Nominated for Entertainment Programme for You’ve Been Framed and TV Burp in 2011)
TRIC: 2010/2011 ( TV Personality), 2009/2011 (Nominated for TV Entertainment Programme for TV Burp), 2008 (Nominated for TV Personality )
Surrey Libraries’ Childrens Book Award: 2011 (For Tim the Tiny Horse At Large)
Comedy Census: 6th in 2011
The Sun’s Bizarre Awards: 2010 (Best Comedian)
LAFTAs: 2012/2011 (Nominated for Funniest Man), 2012/2011 (Nominated for Best Internet Viral/Funniest Podcast for Harry Hill’s Little Internet Show)
Broadcasting Press Guild Award: 2009 (Nominated for Comedy/Entertainment for TV Burp), 2008 (Nominated for Non-Acting Performer/Presenter)
In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders, as well as in The Observer’s 2003 50 Funniest Acts in British Comedy.
He had been on The Late Show with David Letterman seven times, at one point, holding the record for the most appearance by a British comedian on the show. He is highly regarded by David Letterman, with Letterman saying “I like that guy, there is something wrong with him.”
Harry has recently gone into books, which saw the his first novel, “Flight from Heathrow,” based around the antics of celebrities through the eyes on the storyteller in and out of a coma. October 2006 saw his first children’s book, Tim the Tiny Horse, which was written and animated by Harry, with a short tour to promote it, and had a softback release on 4th October 2007, alongside Harry’s new book, The Further Adventures of the Queen Mum. Recent books have been Tim the Tiny Horse At Large, Harry Hill’s Whopping Great Joke Book, TV Burp book, spoof memoirs Livin’ The Dreem and Bumper Book of Bloopers, as well as various charity books. A Funbook was also made as a Christmas spin-off for the Channel 4 show.
Harry is a fan of Morrissey and The Smiths, with Harry appearing on a celebrity edition of “Stars In Their Eyes” as Morrissey, and has featured “Britain’s leading Morrissey impersonator” on tour posters. He is a keen singer and artist, which has seen him sing across his series, as well as draw and paint, with examples shown on his website. He has also done voiceover work for commercials, with campaigns including the Boots Christmas adverts on 2004, the Branstone Pickle “Bring On The Branstone Tang” and Green Flag.
For more information on Harry Avalon has a great PDF on Harry and all his work. You can download it here
Sources: Avalon Promotion, Channel 4 Archives, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, Peter Mills, The Mail on Sunday and YOU Magazine, as well as the old sites.