Need to inject some hilarity into any situation? Cue up some Benny Hill.
Practically since the show debuted, The Benny Hill Show’s theme song has been used for pure comedy gold. Although Hill died in 1992, the legendary comedian would surely approve of the lasting effects of his handiwork. How can anyone hear the song and not think of a slapstick-fueled chase scene? It’s all thanks to Benny’s comic genius.
The Benny Hill Show theme song is a perfect example of how important music is to storytelling. Movies and television shows need that musical score to elevate and enhance the emotionality of the scenes. Oftentimes, filmmakers use the music almost as a cue to the audience for how they should feel or to indicate a scene’s tone. Remove Howard Shore’s exquisite work on The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and see how the films suffer. Try to imagine Star Wars without the beautiful John Williams’ composed score.
As viewers, we’re so used to the sweeping soundtrack that without it, things become odd and awkward. By the same token, the wrong music can make or break what should be a pivotal scene, which brings us to “Yakety Sax,” otherwise known as the theme song to the long-running The Benny Hill Show.
While we may think of comedy when we hear the tune today, it was actually a popular song in the 1960s, climbing as high as 35th on the Billboard Top 100 in ‘63. Although most of us refer to it as the Benny Hill theme, the actual title is “Yakety Sax.” Written by Boots Rudolph and James Q. “Spider” Wilson, the song was first recorded in 1958, but audiences weren’t initially receptive to it. Five years later, Rudolph re-released the single after it was featured on the comedy show, and he was in business.
Meanwhile, Hill was conquering British television. The Benny Hill Show initially aired on BBC in 1955, and the first iteration ran until 1968. A year later, the sketch-comedy show switched to Thames Television, where the series resided for 20 years from 1969 to 1989. Episodes eventually made their way across the pond to the United States, where Hill earned an international following. It also introduced a new generation to “Yakety Sax,” which has now become etched in the mainstream consciousness as one of the most recognizable songs of the past century.
There’s no denying the song’s impact on pop culture. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be played for laughs, but “Yakety Sax” remains the quintessential slapstick soundtrack. For that, internet comedians will keep Hill’s memory and influence alive for generations to come.
On that note, let’s take a look at six times when serious moments were transformed into comedy gold by simply changing the tune (and oftentimes speeding up the footage in true Benny Hill fashion).
Home Alone on Elm Street
There’s long been a running debate among horror fans: sure, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic, but is it actually a great movie?
The original 1984 flick essentially laid the groundwork for New Line Cinema. Decades before the studio became a box office staple and Oscar-winning production company, it was the house that Freddy Krueger built. The low-budget movie was a surprise hit that introduced a modern horror icon that continues to claw away at pop culture.
That icon status is enough to make A Nightmare on Elm Street a classic horror movie. No doubt, Wes Craven worked magic with how much they could do with so little funding, but does that make it a good movie or a famous bad movie? When you put the epic climax to the tune of The Benny Hill Show’s theme, it turns A Nightmare on Elm Street into Home Alone.
Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law
“Yakety Sax” can make anything funny, even a death-defying car chase.
YouTube is littered with police chases set to “Yakety Sax,” and they all run together after a time. This hapless driver on the run manages to elude police in the funniest ways possible, which makes the song all the more fitting. Of course, the editor used the classic Benny Hill trick of speeding up the footage, which adds to the hilarity of the situation. What makes it all the more perfect is that it actually fits with Benny Hill tradition, since practically every episode ended with shenanigans and hinjix that inevitably led to a chase scene, all set to “Yakety Sax.”
Lawbreaking llamas on the loose
You know what’s even better than watching a car chase scored by The Benny Hill Show’s theme song? Add in some llamas. Honestly, who doesn’t like llamas? Apparently, the police department may not have been their biggest fans at this particular moment. Watching them scamper and prance their way just outside the long arm of the law’s reach is hysterical. Run, llamas, run.
The Lion King’s stampede scene…but with “Yakety Sax”
Benny Hill, you were a comic genius. Truly, “Yakety Sax” can make practically anything funny. How many of us cried our eyes out when Mufasa was tossed into the wildebeest stampede? Suddenly, the scene becomes much different when the music changes. Again, this puts added emphasis to the importance of music to set the scene.
Nothing is safe from Benny Hill
When you leave YouTubers to their own devices, literally and figuratively, they will inevitably make a mockery of everything ever made. Nothing is safe from “Yakety Sax,” and that includes the sinking of the Titanic.
Raving with Benny Hill
For many of us, this video introduced us to the possibilities that Benny Hill’s song of choice had to offer.
Added to a 2013 video from Awakefest, the clip went viral. While it was not the first to use the song in this manner, it brought “Yakety Sax” into the spotlight for a whole new generation, and we are all grateful.
Anytime you turn off the music in a dance video, the results will be hilarious. When it’s three guys moving and grooving at a rave, it becomes even more awkward without the techno vibes blasting away. The true genius is dumping “Yakety Sax” into the mix. The strangest thing about this video is how well the dance moves sync with the saxophone.