Denny Hodge may not be a household name, but he’s been a key figure on some of Britain’s most successful sitcoms and prime-time TV shows over the past 30 years.
In between takes, Denny has kept studio audiences roaring with laughter with his impressions, one-liners and stand-up routines and his CV reads like a TV hall of fame.
The off-camera funny man’s credits include Birds of a Feather, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Goodnight Sweetheart, The New Statesman, New Faces, Blind Date, Bullseye and Blockbusters.
Northampton-born warm-up man Denny worked alongside some of the country’s top comedy and acting talent including Dame Judi Dench who mentioned him in her autobiography, describing him as "her rock".
He also worked with Bob Holness on the popular TV quiz Blockbusters, Cilla Black on Blind Date and with Bob Monkhouse on Gag Tag.
After watching David Jason play Del Boy on the set of Only Fools and Horses for three seasons, Denny perfected the character and he now plays the Peckham chancer in a cabaret show to audiences worldwide.
Denny and his fellow cast members are bringing their ‘comedy-dining’ production of Only Fools and Three Courses, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next month and tickets are already selling faster than a case of Del Boy’s dodgy Albanian radio cassettes.
The show is performed at the Kama Sutra restaurant where audience members are served a meal while the performance goes on around them with actors playing all the show’s favourites including Rodney, Uncle Albert, Boycie, Marlene, Raquel and Trigger.
The cast, who play to audiences across the UK and Ireland, recently returned from a run in Australia where the sitcom is hugely popular and next year they are booked to play in Bangkok and Singapore. In October they begin a residency in Covent Garden.
“It’s astonishing how enduring the show is,” said father-of-two Denny, 55.
“Even after all these years, people still go wild for it. Some of its greatest fans are outside of the UK.”
While he was working on the filming of an episode of The New Statesman, he was approached by John Sullivan – the writer of Only Fools and Horses – who was in the audience and who was so impressed with Denny’s routine, he invited him to work on the show.
“I would arrive early for the dress rehearsal which I had to watch carefully so that I knew the script. The audience would arrive and, at around 7.20pm I would introduce all the actors.
“I didn’t need to tell any jokes because the audiences were always high as kites. All I had to do was to introduce the characters and they would go wild.
Observing David Jason playing Del Boy at close quarters and watch his mannerisms for three seasons meant he was able to do a near-perfect impression of the character and he began to introduce that into his warm-up routine.
Two years ago, Gill spotted a newspaper ad from Preston-based agency Comedy Dining, which was looking for an actor to play Del Boy in the show. The company, stages performances of other popular sitcoms, including Fawlty Towers and Allo Allo.
Denny said: “The job description looked like it was tailor-made for me. I couldn’t believe it and I jumped at the chance.
"It’s like a dream come true. I now travel the world playing one of my favourite characters and making people laugh.
"Two of the great joys of life are eating and laughing and we get a ringside seat watching happy people doing both every night. I couldn’t imagine a better way to earn a living.”