TV’s master of mockery returns with a new series of the brilliant TV Burp

EastEnders and The X Factor are sure to be in the firing line when Harry Hill’s award-winning TV Burp returns to ITV1 on Saturday 10 October with more clips, spoofs, puppets and general mickey-taking. We caught up with the big-collared comedian to find out more…

Have you been surprised by the success of TV Burp?
“Yes, but it took us a long time to get it right. ITV used to say it doesn’t look like an ITV show. I took it as a compliment, though I’m not sure they meant it that way.”

Is there anything different in the new series?
“We’re governed by what happens on TV that week. I’ve always said to the writers we should get new segments for the show, but they never do it.”

What are your TV highlights so far this year?
“I always like The Apprentice. It’s that rare thing for me where I can sit down and really enjoy it as a member of the public, but I can also get quite a lot of material from it for TV Burp. Sir Alan is the perfect straight man. You don’t feel he’s acting a part, or that it’s as scripted as you feel The X Factor is.”

Do you still get clips of shows like The Apprentice if the TV channels know you’re going to make fun of them?
“Unusually for the BBC, The Apprentice is a show where they do help us out with clips. I understand why people often don’t want to help. If I were on another programme I wouldn’t want to help me out.”

How do you deal with people who get upset when you make fun of them?
“We’re lucky that a lot of the people we feature are members of the public in reality shows. They’re not like TV people. Normally they’re quite happy if we just send them a bunch of flowers afterwards.”

What would you do if you were in charge of a TV channel?
“Take more risks. You only get original things if you take chances. At the moment, you get something like Gavin & Stacey, which has really broad appeal and is really funny, and they put it on BBC3. Then they move it to BBC2, and then eventually to BBC1. Why didn’t someone have the courage to put it straight on BBC1?”

What would you be if you weren’t a comedian?
“I have my own rock band, Harry Hill and the Caterers, that tours and plays clubs. If I had got in with the right crowd when I was a kid I could probably have been a rock star. I think all comedians want to be pop stars, and all pop stars want to be comedians.”

Would you like to sing in a big stadium?
“I’ve got a plan in the back of my mind to do a show one day called Harry Hill Sings The Beatles’ White Album. But it has occurred to me that I might be the only person who finds that entertaining.”

How about acting?
“I’ve never tried straight acting and I don’t think I’d be any good. But Ade Edmondson got on Holby City, so I don’t see why they can’t have some other bald bloke with glasses.”

You trained as a doctor. Is your desire to appear on Holby just a way of making use of all those years of study?
“It might be. But I suspect the pay would be better on Holby than it is on the NHS.”

Is there any drama you wished you’d been in?
“Little Dorrit. I’ve never been asked to do any costume drama, but I’d be more than happy to do any job that requires a wig.”

Are you doing anything about these acting ambitions?
“No, getting work on television is like looking for love. If you try too hard, nothing ever happens. So I’m playing hard to get.”

We hear you’re also writing a spoof soap opera…
“I’ve written most of it, but I haven’t got round to filming it because I spend so much time on TV Burp. The original idea was that I wasn’t going to be in it and we made a pilot like that, which was good. But then they said they wanted me in it, so we made another pilot, which wasn’t as good.”

Are you popular in America?
“I did the Late Show with David Letterman seven times and it went well, but then when I did stand-up in the clubs afterwards I had a very tough time. I think my stuff is too British, and I’m not sure why I should bother anyway. I’ve already got plenty of work here.”

Harry’s TV loves…
“I made a point of sitting down with my kids for the last series of Britain’s Got Talent. SuBo heading straight off to the Priory in a minicab from the after show party was the TV event of the year. I really enjoyed Psychoville and Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, and there’s a lot to be said for You’ve Been Framed.”

Harry’s TV hates…
“Maybe hate is too strong a word for it, but I don’t like anything that’s derivative or mediocre. You get a hit like The Apprentice and then you get all the copycat shows. I don’t like to name names, so I’m not going to mention Natural Born Sellers.”

Harry’s TV tearjerkers…
Anything sentimental gets me. I can’t even watch TV shows where children are hurt or ill. I felt a bit choked up watching The Duchess on the Estate. Not because of Fergie – you got the impression that she just rocked up a couple of times – but I was very touched by single mum Dawn McGeown, who ran everything.”