Comedian Adam Hills said he did not tell his family he had been named in the New Year Honours list because he was “still not convinced someone isn’t playing a prank on me”.
The Australian TV presenter and comic, 51, has been made an MBE for services to Paralympic sport and disability awareness.
He has hosted Channel 4’s The Last Leg with Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker since its inception in 2012.
Hills, who has a prosthetic foot, told the PA news agency: “I am absolutely chuffed to bits to be given this honour. I’ve already googled ‘Australian comedians who have received honours’, ‘when can I start writing MBE after my name?’ and ‘are Australians even eligible for an MBE?’.
“Turns out the answers are ‘Barry Humphries and Clive James’, ‘when you receive the medal’ and ‘yes’.
“Honestly though, for a boy from the southern suburbs of Sydney, this is quite a massive deal.”
The Last Leg started as a show that ran alongside the London 2012 Paralympics coverage on Channel 4, but due to its popularity and ratings success it became a permanent fixture.
Alongside Widdicombe and Brooker, the Bafta-nominated series covers the week’s topical news but has also shone a light on conversations around disability with coverage of the London, Rio and Tokyo Paralympic Games. It returns for a 24th series in 2022.
Back in Australia, the stand-up comedian has also been a popular fixture on the small screen with two hit series, namely the music comedy quiz show Spicks And Specks and a late night talk show, Adam Hills Tonight.
In 2019 he made the Channel 4 documentary Adam Hills: Take His Legs, which saw him embark on his childhood dream of playing competitive rugby league and join the Warrington Wolves’ Physical Disability Rugby League team as they journeyed to his home country where they emerged as champions.
He said he had not told his family of his MBE yet for “two reasons”, explaining: “Firstly, I’m still not convinced someone isn’t playing a prank on me. Secondly, I’m worried I’ll make a joke about the royal family that causes them to change their minds before the awards are announced.
“I’m pretty sure however that if they didn’t have a good sense of humour, I wouldn’t be on the list in the first place. I’m also pretty sure my mum will cry when she hears the news.”
The father-of-two added: “My wife and kids moved back to Australia at the end of 2019, and thanks to Covid I saw them for a total of 12 weeks in 2021. It was really hard on us all, and at times I wondered if I was doing the right thing.
“I know there’s no replacement for family time, but it softens the blow to know that I can soon say to my kids ‘Daddy got an award from the Queen’.
“With a bit of luck they might even be able to come to England to see me receive the medal.
“Like I said, it won’t make the last two years of separation worth it, but it will make it a little easier for us all to take.”
He said of being honoured for services to Paralympic sport and disability awareness: “Paralympic sport has changed the way I see my own disability, as well as disability in general. I feel so incredibly lucky to be given the chance to cover the Paralympics and am happy to shout about Paralympic sport at every opportunity.
“To be awarded for doing that is kind of like being awarded for eating chocolate – I love doing it anyway but if someone wants to give me a medal for it, I’ll happily accept.
“I’m so proud to do my bit for disability awareness – whether it be by having sign interpreters at my comedy shows, helping to promote Disability Rugby League, or supporting the Lord’s Taverners Table Cricket initiative.
“My aim is to use the profile given to me by this honour to shout even louder about Paralympic sport and disability awareness (and to use a sign interpreter for those that can’t hear my shouting).”
He published his first autobiography Best Foot Forward in 2018 and his new children’s book, Rockstar Detectives, will be published by Penguin Books in 2022.