Harry Hill – The Lowry – 19.2.05

A few hours before we arrived at the Lowry, we witness the voice over maestro Harry Hill on the British Institution that is You’ve Been Framed. Whilst he can’t rescue the program from the atrocity’s that were Lisa Riley and Jonathon Wilkes, he does a sterling job raising a few eyebrows along the way. In many ways he’s the sarcastic bite to the cheese ala Wogan at Eurovision.

A former doctor, he built his reputation up on Channel 4 before decamping for big bucks in a transfer move to ITV. With the success of Harry Hill’s TV Burp, he’s clearly learnt some of the “comedy as a pension-able career” manoeuvres of Peter Kay. In the reception he has a large range of merchandise available including the much overdue Stoofer toys.

Hill remains as he’s always been: a firebrand, a maverick and raconteur of surreal observational and abstract comedy. Jumping from tale to tale he takes in Corgi approved gas fitters (“They clearly didn’t think it through. Sniff sniff sniff – the Corgi’s are far too easily bribed by dog biscuits”) or hiding tools in the van overnight while laughing to himself at the “There Are No Tools Kept In This Van Overnight” sign…only for someone to break into the van one night.

From the surreal to the topical he takes in Michael Jackson (“What’s he doing turning up to court in pyjamas? He’s clearly not getting it. It’s over between them”), Camilla (the continual catchphrase of She can’t be queen) and the hilarious set piece with Abu Hamster (geddit) playing interspecies tennis. The first half of the show ends as only it could with a fight between Stoofer and a badger in the TV Burp tradition.

The second half of the show has more of a cabaret feel with his backing band the Harries joining him onstage. Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, Scissor Sisters “Take Your Mama Out” and Green Day’s “American Idiot” are all given the Harry Hill work over…as does Natasha Bedingfield who seems to have taken over Heather Small as the chanteuse du jour.

A few old favourites return. Gary (Harry’s son from his 1st marriage) with the Michael Jackson baiting “don’t tell them about the Jesus Juice. It’s our secret” and Harry Hill senior from the days of Channel 4.

As the strains to Morrissey’s “I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me” ring out across the auditorium at the end of the show, the one thing Harry Hill can be sure of after tonight’s show is that we’ll never forget him.

Alex McCann

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