Benny Hill – Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)
How the former milkman (inspiration for Ernie?) and one of the most politically incorrect comedians of all time survived the scorn of the women’s libbers to remain a hugely popular funnyman.
Born Alfred Hill, Benny had a love of entertainment from a young age and, at age 16, he left for London to pursue a career in entertainment and comedy.
He immediately got work as a comedian, although not in London, leading a troupe of 12 others.
In 1941, he made his debut in ‘Stars in Battledress’, using his new stage name, Benny Hill.
Hill honed his comic technique in music hall’s across the country, as was the traditional route at the time, before turning his sights to a new technology, television.
Hill was a pioneer performer in television and in the 1950s he hosted a number of variety shows for the only television channel, the BBC.
Hill branched out into cinema in 1956, in the film ‘Who Done It?’ It was not a huge success, but Hill continued to perform in various films, such as the hit ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, throughout his career, although television remained his primary medium.
Hill’s television prominence hit its peak in the late 1960s, with his sometimes controversial ‘The Benny Hill Show’. This was comedy slapstick, filled with Hill’s now famous bawdy jokes and personae, including the infamous Professor Marvel.
The series lasted throughout the 1970s and was sold internationally. Despite attracting controversy wherever it was seen, it gained a loyal following and remained broadcasting until 1988.
Despite being an extrovert in front of the camera, Hill kept his private life private, often avoiding public places. He never married, although it’s rumoured that he did propose unsuccessfully to two women.