Benny Hill-arity

My new dream is this:

To be running through a large, green field in sped-up stop motion, chased by a couple of cops, an old bald man and a few scantily clad nurses, to the tune of ‘Yakety Sax’.

If you guessed my dream consists of a re-enactment of the closing to a Benny Hill show, you would, of course be spot on. I can think of worse dreams to have.

The Benny Hill Show, even to a suburban Yank like me, was a staple of my mid-80s childhood. My brother and I would rush to finish our dinner – to this day an amazing feat, given how picky we were with food – and then race each other to the television to catch the show’s opening skit, aired promptly at 7 pm every weeknight on local New Jersey station WOR Channel 9.

Yes Benny Hill was juvenile and some of the gags were obvious, even for us juveniles. But he always did it with a knowing wink to the camera and my brother and I would often find ourselves recreating our favorite skits in our basement, which in itself was a bit of an imagination factory.

I recently stumbled across a “Benny Hill’s Greatest Hits” selection while thumbing through my Netflix streaming queue and decided to re-visit some of the great laughs of my youth. I did it with a mix of anticipation and dread, since often things we found hysterical as kids are meant to stay firmly fixed within the gaze of rose-colored glasses.

Watching those old skits, many of which I still remembered, it was no surprise more than a few had not aged well. Yet there were still a handful that hit home and caused me to laugh out loud, by myself, from the comfort of my room.

One skit, where Benny plays a fitness guru showcasing various athletic talents with a band of eager followers was particularly classic, complete with sped up camera work which added just that extra touch of lunacy. At one point he turns to disarm a man pointing a gun at his back, but of course grabs the wrong hand. Later, he lays on a mat and in an exercise that could only have been considered effective in the 70s, attempts to hold his protegees aloft from his body. The old man is there, and of course he gets a few slaps across his bald head ushering him along to get to the women. That’s when his strength really seems to fail.

Yes, it may still be juvenile, but I can still appreciate the look of desperation on Benny’s face as he looks into the camera while lying on a mat, arms shaking, trying to hold a young woman’s ass aloft from his face. As the man himself once said, “I’m not against half naked girls, not as often as I’d like to be!”

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