Remembering the BBC’s forgotten comedian: Harry Worth
Harry Worth was a ground-breaking post-war British comedian, who introduced us to a new kind of comedy. Despite his influence at the peak of his career, he appears to have been largely forgotten today. Those who do remember him usually only remember his famous trick in the shop window, used in the opening credits of his sitcom series Harry Worth.
Now, for the first time we can see what all the fuss was about, with the DVD release of the BBC’s Here’s Harry: All Surviving Episodes by Simply Media. We look at why the legendary comic deserves a place amongst the greats of alternative British comedy.
Why was Harry Worth special?
He was one of the first comedians who allowed us to laugh at silliness again after World War Two.
He started out as a self-taught ventriloquist whilst he was with the RAF during the War. Before a performance he often warned his audience that he was not very good, perhaps the origin of his overly apologetic and inept comedy persona.
After the War he went on to join the variety circuit, supporting the likes of Laurel and Hardy!
Worth bucked the trend for brash comedy and outlandish characters at the time. Instead, he created a likeable, gentle and bumbling fellow, who was easily confused by simple and ordinary things in life, causing chaos and confusion as he went about his day. It was difficult to separate the comedian Harry from his on-screen alter ego, Harry!
His comedy mainly revolved around Harry attempting to carry out ordinary tasks: visiting the doctor, booking a holiday – and always causing bewilderment in those he interacted with as he failed to make himself understood.
Arguably as popular as Morecombe and Wise at the time, Harry Worth’s popular BBC sitcom Here’s Harry, later renamed Harry Worth, became the longest running sitcom ever at the time. It ran for over 10 years, and 100 episodes (a feat that remains difficult to beat today!)
Why did Harry Worth fade into obscurity?
Unfortunately, many episodes of Harry Worth’s shows were wiped by the BBC during the late 1960s to 1980s.
Harry Worth kept his private life private and didn’t become a celebrity figure outside his sitcom success. He rarely gave public appearances or interviews, and resisted publishers attempts to persuade him to write his biography.
The nature of television humour has changed so much over the decades. Could it be that Harry Worth’s gentle and innocent style has become so unfashionable with younger audiences, he’s been pushed out of the limelight?
How far did his influence reach?
Harry Worth’s ability to become frustrated with trivial matters can be seen as a direct inspiration for One Foot in The Graves’ iconic Victor Mildrew, even if Worth was a little less cantankerous!
The equally cheerful and hapless Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em can also be linked to Worth’s bumbling character, and fans of Harry Hill’s silly, childish chappie undoubtedly have a lot of to thank Harry Worth for.
So next time you pass a shop window, try “doing a Harry Worth” in honour of the great, forgotten comedian!
We encourage you to share photos of you “doing a Harry Worth” to our Facebook or Twitter page @SimplyMediaTV.
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