Adam Hills is an Australian comedian and TV personality.
Adam Hills is one of Australia’s most popular performers. He is probably best known in Australia as the host of ABC TV’s long running Spicks and Specks and in the UK as the host of The Last Leg.
Born in Sydney in 1970, he developed an interest in comedy at the age of 8, according to Wikipedia, while listening to an inflight comedy channel. He completed a B.A. in Communications at Macquarie University and graduated in 1991. He began performing stand-up comedy at the age of 19. His solo shows have been regular highlights at many festivals all over the world for over 15 years - the Adelaide Fringe, the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, the US Comedy Arts Festival, the Cat Laughs Kilkenny Comedy Festival in Ireland and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
He knew only a little about his Maltese heritage before he was invited to feature in an episode of the SBS TV series Who Do You Think You Are?. The older of two brothers, he grew up in Australia, went to an all-boys school and, in his words, had “a really warm upbringing”. His father, Robert Hills, married Judith Kluckhenn, so his grandparents on that side of the family were Oscar Kluckhenn and his Scottish wife Vera. Their son Ron married Mary Vassallo (described by Vera as “very dark”). So Adam’s heritage was Scottish, and the Kluckhenn family were Austrian nationals who came from the Bohemian region.
Adam’s grandparents on the other side were Giuseppe “Joseph” Vassallo who was married to Rosina “Rosa” Borg. Joseph took out a loan which enabled him to migrate to Australia in 1912 and Rosa followed him two years later. Their daughter Mary grew up in Woolloomooloo so that Joseph could obtain work on the docks. The men presented every day and the strongest were chosen to work on the wharves. The Maltese-Australian historian Barry York says that the Maltese were classed as “semi-white” and were listed as “Italian” even though they were British citizens. York cited one description of “the dirty diseased Maltese”.
SBS flew Adam to Malta to trace his Maltese forebears, and a medievalist at Siggiewi found that Joseph was from Birkirkara and was able to trace his family history, 11 generations further back from Adam’s great-grandfather, to Matteo Vassallo who was born in 1463. Matteo was a notary public (something like a lawyer in those days) who became a criminal court judge and was a very rich man. But even Matteo had to travel to Mdina once for ditch-digging duties, as all citizens had to contribute to fortifying the capital city. Other records reveal that Matteo was owed money, that he owned one house and part of another, and revealed an impressive list of assets.
Matteo was one of the armatori, that class of citizens who owned boats and their crews (almost certainly slaves), and participated in the legalised trade of slavery. He had a share in a pirate ship which was involved in “corsairing”. Adam was particularly chuffed that Matteo was involved in piracy for the reason that Adam was born without a right foot and wears a prosthesis (which often features as part of his comedy act).
Awards and recognitions
- Perrier Award nominations at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2001, 2002, 2003.
- The inaugural Best of the Fest Award in Edinburgh, 2002.
- Radio Forth Award for best comedy, Cut Loose.
- Chortie Award for best compere in the UK.
- Helpmann Award for Joymonger, best comedy performance in Australia, 2007.
- Nominations for 4 Logie Awards including one Gold Logie nomination.
- Most Popular Presenter at the 2012 Logies.
In all, he has been nominated for 13 awards in Australian TV between 2006 and 2013. There are numerous other achievements in his stellar career.
Adam toured Australia with Spicks and Specks. He has released CDs, been a newspaper columnist and has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. He hosted the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Paralympics broadcasts screened in Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa. He has featured in numerous TV and radio programs in the UK, often as host. He hosted his own Australian TV series, Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight. He has also acted on stage and contributed to magazines and websites. In 2012 he announced that was going to concentrate exclusively on stand-up comedy.
Adam is married to opera singer Ali McGregor and they have two children.
- Who Do You Think You Are, SBS TV, April 2, 2013
- The Age Green Guide, March 28, 2013