Alexei Sayle (3 stars)

This article is from 2017

Alexei Sayle

credit: Steve Ullathorne

A slightly predictable if highly opinionated return from the Liverpool legend

When he arrived back on the Fringe scene in 2013 after decades away, Alexei Sayle had a running gag about his wife worrying that a return to the stage would be 'diluting his legacy'. His short but compelling run at The Stand showed that there was plenty life in the old dog yet. Fast forward four years and the Liverpudlian legend is in a cavernous hall in the middle of Edinburgh, and the flame that burned to volcanic levels in 2013 has been, if not extinguished, certainly dampened down.

It all starts promisingly enough with an unexpected tirade against the pretty fountains around King's Cross station serving as a preamble to an anecdote of being harassed by a spurned prostitute in the same area. From there he takes a swipe at Jihadists by imagining an end-of-year job appraisal in HR for failed suicide bombers, pokes fun at Channel 5 and targets young people for their gullibility. Slightly predictable targets from within the stand-up world (McIntyre, Whitehall) get it firmly in the throat while he finds a spark of hope in Corbyn. But too often, the intricate imagery he sets up and impassioned wordplay he indulges in are a little lost in both the room and his rapid volley of crowd-pleasing cursing.

There's no doubt whatsoever that Alexei Sayle helped shape the future of live British comedy in the late 70s / early 80s (he playfully suggests here that it was pretty much all his doing), but if ever the case was to be made that stand-up always works best up close and personal, this is it.

Underbelly Med Quad, until 11 Aug, 6.45pm, £13–£15 (£12–£14).

Alexei Sayle

  • 5 stars

Doyen of the alt.comedy scene, off on tour for the first time in years.