January 21, 2010
Although he is often written out of comedy history, BENNY HILL (1924-92) was a truly great clown, whom Charlie Chaplin venerated as a master of physical comedy, and whose brilliant verbal shtick echoed the easy mania of Sid Caesar. Today, however, Hill is mostly remembered for the smut. He was sent into this world to take the weight of English sexual anxiety upon his flabby shoulders; his work reminds us what happens to sexual desire when viewed through a perfectly tempered kaleidoscope of silly faces and pure anxiety. Every smutty English snicker, smirk, off-colour comment, blue gag, purple patch, point, pout, nudge, smudge, fizzle-plop snort, wink, blink, swivel-eyed glance, angle-neck sideways opprobrium-locater, and inverted stop-motion violet-bud-opening face-shrinker effect was to be found under his imperious, yet cherubic command. For Hill, perversity was creativity — and a cigar was never just a cigar.
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