Leicester Comedy Legends: Do surreal antics of Harry Hill tickle you?
Long before his enormous super-starched shirt collars hit TV screens, Harry Hill performed at a tiny comedy festival in Leicester.
The daft-as-a-brush comic headlined the first Leicester Comedy Festival in 1994, so it seems fitting he is in the running for our first Legend of Comedy award – a search launched to celebrate 20 years of the festival.
He has appeared here often since that first visit, and we reviewed his show at De Montfort Hall at the 2003 festival.
Reporter Steve Pumfrey loved him – even if some of the audience did not share his enthusiasm.
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"One bloke at the end said it was surreal and brilliant, but his mate thought it was rubbish, Yep, they're still divided over Harry Hill," he wrote.
"It's a bit like debating the merits of Woody Allen – you either love him or hate him."
But Steve said Harry's style of comedy was magnificently illustrated "in a show which brought a riotous end to the Leicester Comedy Festival".
Forget his "hit-and-miss" TV stuff – our reviewer Steve reckoned Harry is far better in the flesh.
"Throughout more than two hours, his routines are more fully formed, and it was hilarious," he said.
"The first half was classic stand-up, although anyone familiar with Harry's madcap observations knows he doesn't do gags.
"The second half was even better.
"Wildly off-the-wall it may have been, but there were touched of comic brilliance."
Harry again received strong words of praise when he appeared at De Montfort Hall in 2005 as part of the festival. Reviewer Lis Gibbs said: "He was in his element in front of a sell-out De Montfort Hall crowd, strutting round the stage in his trademark large-collared suit, bursting into song and tailing off into long anecdotes, to which he would suddenly return and deliver the punchline 20 minutes later.
"His humour is fast-paced, clever and topical as well as downright bizarre."
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