I knew that I would be in for a fun read when I picked up Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills.
I know Hills best as the host of Spicks and Specks, an Australian music-themed television quiz show that ended some years ago. Spicks and Specks was on television for seven years and was a must-watch at the time, always funny and informative. The guest list was a ‘who’s who’ of music and comedy at the time and He Who Eats All of Our leftovers, Miss S and I still watch and enjoy the repeats.
Hills is also a very funny and successful comedian. Best Foot Forward tells the story of his family life, growing up in Sydney and enjoying The Two Ronnies, Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks, as well as other comedians from that generation. My first laugh came on the first page when Hills described the family car’s colour as ‘beige’ while his father swore it was ‘Sahara Tan’. This tickled me because our family has a car which I call ‘gold’ although the official name of the colour is ‘Koala Beige’. I also enjoyed reading about the Hills’ family trips to visit his grandparents in Tuross Head on the South Coast of NSW after spending time living nearby at around the same time Hills talked of being there.
While he was at university Hills realised he wanted to be a comedian and started doing stand-up comedy, honing his skills and landing a job hosting a radio program in Adelaide, which he eventually left after making the decision to give stand-up comedy a proper shot.
Hills spoke honestly about ‘dying’ on stage and playing to very small crowds, what he learned from each gig, and the work and constant crafting that went into making him a better performer as time went on. When Spicks and Specks came along Hills took the opportunity to host the show and when it ended, he went on the host The Last Leg, a comedy sports show which originally followed the Paralympics in 2012. Hill says he got so caught up in the thrill and emotion of the competitions that he seriously considered taking up wheelchair basketball (he has a prosthetic leg) but was put off by the idea of needing to learn to use a wheelchair. I believe The Last Leg is still on television in the UK but has morphed into a talk show.
The last time I saw Hills on Australian television was during a cross to him while he was enjoying an unexpected day at an Australian beach as a result of his plane to the UK being delayed. He joked then that no one at the beach seemed fazed by him hopping out of the water because he was missing a leg! This reminded me of a story about Miss S when she was little. We had met a friend of a friend who was on crutches after having his leg amputated and Miss S wanted to know if a shark had got him!
Being a comedian, the book is filled with stories of his encounters, gigs and friendships with other comedians from Australia and the rest of the world which makes the book read like a ‘who’s who of comedy.’ I have seen some of these comedians perform and enjoyed these stories very much. Hills also described his first and subsequent encounters with his own idol, Billy Connolly, whose generosity of spirit shone through Hill’s storytelling.
Hills also has a similar kindness and positivity about him and while I haven’t watched The Last Leg I imagine the show brings joy to viewers.