Every day at half past four in the afternoon, Garnet takes off his trousers. ‘I want to be all nudie-dudie!’ he announces. He’d take off his shirt too, if he could manage it, and keeping his nappy on requires a long negotiation that in the best case scenario ends with the nappy remaining on and me reading him fifty books. The weather has only just started to cool down here for the autumn, so I’m permitting this, largely because the part where he drops his daks around his ankles is my favourite part of the day. Because that’s when he shouts ‘I’m Benny Hill!’ and cracks up laughing. I defy you to think of something funnier than a two-year-old running around with his pants down claiming to be Benny Hill. It is approximately a billion times funnier than the actual Benny Hill Show, that sexist and ridiculous relic of 1970s British comedy. It’s funnier because he doesn’t know who Benny Hill is, and because he inadvertently re-enacts the iconic chase scene from that show by running in a loop through two rooms of our house which are joined by two doors. Sometimes he goes so fast I can almost convince myself there are six of him.
Benny Hill is a cultural reference that is on its last legs, I’d say. I only recall it vaguely from my childhood, mostly because it featured the only bare breasts I can remember seeing on TV. And I may even have misremembered the part about Hill often having his pants down while chasing scantily clad women to the bouncy saxophone soundtrack, because I’ve just done some very scientific YouTube research, and it seems that Hill mostly stayed dressed and the girls got their kits off. But I can’t have that completely wrong, because many years ago my little brother and I went to a bad taste party dressed as Benny Hill and a tarty nurse, and he wasn’t the only Benny Hill there, shuffling about in full pants-down-paunch-out glory.
I don’t particularly mind if this is the only part The Benny Hill Show plays in my children’s education in British comedy, because that syllabus is pretty full already. Most of it still lies ahead of them, and that is a part of parenthood I am hugely looking forward to. We’ll start with Fawlty Towers, when May Blossom turns five. The Young Ones will probably wait until she is seven. Then there’s Blackadder, Alan Partridge, Absolutely Fabulous, The Fast Show, The Office… We’ll skip Are You Being Served. I wonder if they’ll find any of this funny, or if it will all be a bit too old, and only sort-of funny, like I found BBC radio comedies The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half Hour (sorry Dad!) when I was a kid.
Actually, I’ve just realised that there’s a bit of a problem with introducing them to these shows: our children are going to find out that ALL the funny voices and jokes and lines that H and I constantly spout aren’t original, and that we’re not actually funny at all. I may be reduced to dropping my trousers and chasing H around the house to get laughs.