Bored with reading dull books to his kids, Harry Hill set out to create the un-adventures of a very small nag called Tim. Kelly Apter collars the comic.
Ricky Gervais, Charlie Higson, Nigel Planer: many a British comedian has deviated into the world of children’s literature. Yet none of them seemed quite so born to it as Harry Hill. The question wasn’t so much if the man who created the ‘Badger Parade’ and Stouffer the Cat would write a kids book, but when. In true Hill style, Tim the Tiny Horse is full of surreal non-sequiturs. Twelve short chapters written and illustrated by Hill, in which Tim tries to experience a hitherto untapped side of life. Attempts at a career in radio, TV and reality television are all severely hindered by his height - approximately two inches. Whereas watching the news, snacking on a Hula Hoop and hanging out with his friend Fly are well within Tim’s grasp.
Hill was inspired to create his equine hero after growing weary of the books on his own children’s shelves. ‘I just got a bit tired of reading Noddy books where nothing much happens,’ says Hill. ‘I know kids love that because it’s pure escapism, but my idea was to create some modern dilemmas. Life isn’t always about big adventures; it’s often about little small un-adventures like watching a video.’ Simple but effective, the illustrations add much of the humour to Tim’s tales. And although this is the first time Hill has drawn an entire book, his work has been in print before, an occasion which - despite the comedy and TV awards that followed - must remain one of Hill’s proudest moments. ‘I got a cartoon in the Whizzer and Chips when I was about 11,’ says Hill. ‘I was paid 75p for it.’
A landmark event for any child. But despite that early payment, drawing has been more of a therapeutic practice than a money-maker over the years. ‘I’ve always done drawings and cartoons, really as just a kind of outlet,’ says Hill. ‘But it was quite different doing it to order for the book. It’s one thing to do a few little doodles to amuse yourself, but having to do that amount really did stretch me quite a lot.’
Hill had better keep his drawing hand in good shape, as it seems Tim’s ‘un-adventures’ are far from over. Having discussed the meaning of life with Fly, made a demo tape and surfed the internet, there are still many more hurdles for the wee horse to jump. ‘There’ll definitely be a follow-up,’ assures Hill. ‘I’m not sure what, but it’s the sort of thing where you could have Tim going on holiday, with ten stories about the problems he encounters.’
As well as having an obvious appeal for children, Tim the Tiny Horse will inevitably attract an adult following from Hill’s existing fan base. With references to Big Brother, Anna Ford and annoying cold callers interrupting your bath, he is obviously catering to both young and old. Did he picture a target age range for the book? ‘Not really. I’ve never had a target audience for anything, because if you start aiming things at people, nine times out of ten you miss it. You don’t know what people like, all you know is what you think is good.’
Tim the Tiny Horse is out now published by Faber; Hill appears at Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Wed 11 Oct.