A masterclass from the alternative comedy pioneer
This article is from 2013.
Without naming any names, a number of British comics who were big in the 80s and 90s have returned to the stand-up stage. Their comeback appearances merely proved that they made a wise move stopping in the first place. With this breath-taking hour, Alexei Sayle is nowhere near falling short and his wife Linda can rest assured that he’s far from ‘diluting the legacy’.
The 61-year-old is certainly not shy in naming names, and he gives it with both barrels to some familiar targets (the Tories, Ben Elton) and some surprising ones (the miners, Dizzee Rascal). The fire in the belly is still burning away and he reminisces without sentimentality on his showbiz career, from giving advice to Joan Collins about Marxism to being at a depressing after-show party with Lembit Opik.
‘A lot has changed since I invented alternative comedy’, he muses amusingly, before venting some spleen at the ‘war criminals’ who sit on TV panel shows, while his more playful, surrealist side comes to the fore when reconfiguring Charles Dickens as a camp Scouser propelled into the modern day and meeting up with literary bloggers.
The energy and passion are still wholly intact (as are the silly squeaky voices) and so demonstrative is his performance that he manages to split his trousers after one particularly physical routine. Sayle delivered some impressive work-in-progress shows in Scotland last autumn and much of the excellent material he showcased there has remained. He has simply refined the routines, clipping away any excess fat and thrown himself into a world-class performance. It’s fitting that many people will remember him from his role in The Young Ones for Alexei Sayle has returned to show all the upcoming wannabes exactly how this job should be done.
The Stand III & IV, 558 7272, until 25 Aug, 6pm, £12.