“The Benny Hill Show” soared from Great Britain onto American late-night TV in the 1970s and ’80s. Its theme song, though, is purely American.
If you’ve ever seen the show’s closing segment, then you’ll remember a lot of chase scenes put together with the song “Yakety Sax” over them. This song, which Hill used throughout his show’s run, actually was written by Boots Randolph and James Rich. In 1963, Randolph released it as a 45-RPM single.
“‘Yakety Sax’ will be my trademark,” Randolph said in a 1990 interview with The Associated Press. “I’ll hang my hat on it. It’s kept me alive. Every sax player in the world has tried to play it. Some are good, some are awful.” Randolph died in 2007.
His song reached No. 35 on Billboard’s Hot Singles chart. Take a look at country music stars Chet Atkins and Boots Randolph performing “Yakety Sax” in this clip.
‘The Benny Hill Show’ Harkens Back To Vaudeville
But let’s get back to Benny Hill and his use of the song, which became known as “The Benny Hill Theme,” throughout the comedy show.
Hill’s show was a bit like an old-style Vaudeville show. It had quick sketches that lasted seconds, then it had sketches that ran for 5-7 minutes. There was a lot of bawdiness to his show, though. His show’s popularity was good for nearly two decades before being canceled in 1989 by Britain’s ITV.
Benny Hill died in April 1992 after suffering a coronary thrombosis. His health had been in decline the previous couple of years.
Benny Hill’s Comedy Comes To U.S. In 1979
His comedy style probably would not fit into today’s world at all. It was frowned upon when it was canceled, but the show found new life in the United States.
Starting in 1979, according to an article from The New York Times, a series of half-hour shows taken from hour-long British shows began airing on television. Americans fell in love with his show, which brought great wealth to Hill.
“The Benny Hill Show” also began airing in other countries like China and the Soviet Union.
During a 1979 interview with The New York Times, Hill said, “My ideal form of entertainment is to have it all going on at once: good music, pretty girls, lots of laughs. I sometimes use a girl singer the way (comedian) Henny Youngman uses his violin as a bridge between one laugh and the next.”
Hill reportedly was a very private man who never was married and left no survivors. It also was said of Hill that he pretty much did all the writing and directing of his TV shows.
If you’ve never seen how Hill closed his show, then here’s two-plus minutes from a 1986 episode.