Harry Hill on how a childhood with stink bombs inspired his performance as Professor Branestawm

The comedian reveals his childhood Christmas memories now he is a dad

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Christmas Day was always a big family do. I’m one of five children, and there were always a lot of us crammed into a really small house. Our sofa could only seat five people comfortably. I always remember sitting on the arm. I am the second oldest child, but I’m a peacemaker. What can I tell you?

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As a child, I used to love charades because it was an opportunity to show off. Nowadays I feel very self-conscious about it. It’s a busman’s holiday!

My favourite ever gift as a child was a chemistry set because I loved inventing things. With two pals, we set up our own company. We manufactured smoke bombs, stink bombs and invisible ink that sadly never disappeared. One mother banned her son from using our services because one of our smoke bombs had filled their house with smoke – which seemed to us to be an excellent endorsement! I was that kid. That’s why I was so eager to play Professor Branestawm in BBC1’s version of the books. He was the ultimate nutty professor!

When you have your own children [he has three daughters], the magic of Christmas returns. I’ve been transferring hours of home video to my hard drive. When they were growing up,

I would carry a video camera everywhere, and I’ve got all their Christmasses on film. Watching the children opening their presents is sweet. It’s rather sobering, too. I’ve also got 20 New Year’s Eves on home video, and the last 15 are just me and my wife watching Jools Holland’s Hootenanny on our own. 

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Professor Branestawm is on Christmas Eve at 8.30pm on BBC1