It has been a decade of tumultuous change since Harry Hill last toured. But for Hill, a corner of a comedy scene will forever remain nonsense — a timeless land where rapping about Crossroads, dressing up as an elephant and puking ventriloquist dolls still has a home. Pedigree Fun finds the 58-year-old doesn’t look or act a day older than he did on the Sausage Time tour in 2013 – even if his cavalcade of idiocy doesn’t quite reach (or at least not tonight) the heights of its predecessor.
The only time Hill acts on his age rather than his shoe size is with a running gag over the generation gap. Millennials and their juniors are viciously teased about their meager heritage as they boast of the toughness cultivated by a death-defying 70s upbringing. There’s more nastiness in the mix than previous shows – see several Hitler jokes and a gag on pedophile TV stars of yesteryear (“You have to give it to them, they were natural entertainers”).
This visual and verbal antics flow to such an extent that there is always something that comes along to make you laugh. Hill teaches us the four basic forms of chicken nugget and mime bathing with a wet wipe, but the standout moments are the biggest set pieces: throwing an audience volunteer as a rescue elephant, for example, then maneuvering them into a burlesque duet with an ironing board. There’s a winning freewheeling shaggy dog story about delivering a recipe box and – tonight’s undisputed showstopper – a sock-based physical comedy number that finds our host dragged, writhing, through the scene.
At such times, a Harry Hill concert is just a happy place. But there are some fallow periods here between the fertile ones; moments when you can admire the absurdity of what Hill does (a non-sequential Coleridge recital, for example) without finding it particularly funny. An oft-repeated on-screen joke, dividing foodstuffs, famous people and more into “trays” or “tears and shares” overstays its welcome without ever really winning over audiences. So it’s not always nonsense at its peak, but a hoot all the same.