Harry Hill, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea | Comedy reviews, news & interviews
Harry Hill, Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea
Madcap fun and games from the medic turned comic, making his return to stand-up
There must be something about doing a medical degree. A steady stream of medics - including Jonathan Miller, Graham Chapman, Graeme Garden and Paul Sinha - have hung up their stethoscopes to plough a furrow in comedy (Phil Hammond, meanwhile, manages to combine the two careers). It was definitely medicine's loss and comedy's gain when Harry Hill made his career detour and, as he gleefully tells us in Sausage Time, five years at medical school provided him with the wherewithal to deliver an educated (and very funny) fart gag.
Hill has been away from live performance for several years, concentrating on his cult television show TV Burp and providing the voiceover for You've Been Framed. He is joined by a few pals on stage, who provide musical accompaniment and help out in a couple of sketches, and some of TV Burp's best-loved elements are here, including an audience participation segment decided by - what else? - a fight.
He dares poke fun at Muslim fundamentalists, always searching for a bloke called Alan
Hill, dressed in trademark NHS specs and huge-collared shirt with a row of pens in his jacket pocket, is an energetic performer and Sausage Time is a madcap hotchpotch of visual jokes, dreadful puns, physical comedy and quickfire gags interspersed with deliberately bad song-and-dance numbers. His comedy net is cast wide as he references Beyoncé's advice on keeping pigeons - “shoulda put a ring on it” - the Olympics, Nando's, Jimmy Savile and the horsemeat scandal, to a section delivered in Tongan (or Hill's version of it). It's all as daft as it sounds, but meticulously put together none the less.
Among the silliness and the surreal flights of fancy - why drinking coffee can cause your elderly neighbour to end up in hospital - are some politically astute gags about climate change, religious intolerance and the idiocy of celebrity, and he dares poke fun at Muslim fundamentalists, always searching for a bloke called Alan. Not many comics could get away with an extended Dignitas joke, but such is Hill's charm that he does - and then follows it with a wicked impression of the local Essex accent, and the Southend audience lap it up. He can even make a running gag involving that instrument of torture, a ukulele, funny.
The slightly less frantic second half has some nicely worked callbacks and, although the extended encore goes on a little too long, it cements the surreality of the evening. “Join me in disasterland,” it says on a home-made poster placed in front of his onstage props. Nah – funland, more like. Pure joy.
- Harry Hill is touring until 11 April
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