Thursday, August 27, 2009


Alexei Sayle

From Wikipedia...

Alexei David Sayle (born 7 August 1952) is an English stand-up comedian, actor and author. In a poll for Channel 4, Sayle, a central part of the alternative comedy circuit in the early 1980s, was voted 18th on a list of the 100 Greatest Stand Ups.

Much of Sayle's humour is in the tradition of Spike Milligan and Monty Python, with riffs based on an absurd and surreal premise. His act is notable for cynicism, intelligence and political awareness, as well as physical comedy. Sayle's trademark appearance is a shaved head, five o'clock shadow, and a suit that is a size or two too small.

Personal life

Sayle was born and raised in Anfield, Liverpool, the son of an English railway worker and a Lithuanian pools clerk, both of whom were members of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

In his stand-up comedy work, Sayle describes himself as being of Lithuanian Jewish extraction. In the aftermath of the May 1968 French uprising, he joined the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). He went to The Alsop High School in Walton. After leaving school, Sayle took a foundation course in art at Southport, before attending Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. He has been married to Linda Rawsthorn since 1974.

On 3 January 2009, Sayle took part in a protest in London along with thousands of others in opposition to Israel's ground attack on Gaza.


When the Comedy Store opened in London in 1979, Sayle responded to an advert for "would-be comedians" and became its first master of ceremonies. In 1980, he was seen performing at the Edinburgh Festival by comedy producer Martin Lewis (producer of The Secret Policeman's Balls), who became his manager. Sayle became the leading performer at the new club The Comic Strip. He also secured a radio series for London's Capital Radio, Alexei Sayle And The Fish People (1981), for which he won a Sony Radio Award. Sayle later released an album based on the show - The Fish People Tapes. He appeared on The Comic Strip Album (1981) and recorded Cak! (1982). He also appeared in the stage show, film and comedy album of The Secret Policeman's Other Ball (1981-82). In 1982, Sayle joined Central Television's late-night alternative cabaret show O.T.T. He left nine weeks into the show's run, in order to tour Australia with The Comic Strip. He was replaced by Bernard Manning.

The height of his early fame was with the single 'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?, produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (who also produced for Madness and Elvis Costello). The 12-inch version of the single achieved notoriety due to its extensive use of profanity. The record's success changed Sayle's comedy career from cult status into the mainstream. He went on to star in many television series and films and also became one of the UK's highest paid voice-over talents. He released two more singles: Didn't You Kill My Brother?, which was accompanied by a popular music video, and Meanwhile, both from the album Panic, the cover of which parodies the cover of the Michael Jackson album Off The Wall.

Sayle was a cast member of the situation comedy The Young Ones, in which he was credited with providing "additional material". He often portrayed the students' landlord Mr. Balowski, but also played the roles of other Balowski family members. In the episode titled Oil, he sings and performs a song called Doctor Martens Boots. In 1985, he appeared in the Doctor Who serial Revelation of the Daleks. In a column for a British tabloid newspaper around the same time, he indicated that he wanted to become the "first Socialist Doctor." In 1988, Sayle played the role of Trinculo in Shakespeare's The Tempest, directed by Jonathan Miller at The Old Vic theatre in London.

Sayle has co-written many programmes, including one episode of The Comic Strip Presents..., also entitled Didn't You Kill My Brother?, (which also starred Beryl Reid), three series of Alexei Sayle's Stuff (1988-91), two series of The All New Alexei Sayle Show (1994-95) and one series of Alexei Sayle's Merry-Go-Round (1998). In 1989, Sayle was awarded an International Emmy for Stuff. In conversation with Mark Thomas on BBC Radio 4's informal chat-show Chain Reaction, Sayle revealed that the first he knew of the award was when he watched Channel 4 News and saw, to his amazement, Benny Hill collecting the award on his behalf. [5] Sayle alternates his comedic work with performances as a character actor ranging from serious (Gorky Park) to humorous (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). He has also provided the voice-over for animations including the character Rubbish the Cat in the children's TV series Rubbish, King of the Jumble.

In 1994 he presented the miniseries Drive, which gave advice for safe driving through Alexei's signature form of humour interspersed with some serious pieces. Examples include ending a piece on the likelihood of certain behaviour causing fatal accidents with "...but it's not gonna be me, so it must be one of you", and on the subject of alertness; "You not only have to expect the unexpected, you also have to expect the utterly impossible", followed by jumping into a car with two lobsters. In 1995, he was awarded an honorary professorship at Thames Valley University.

Sayle has written two short story collections and five novels, including a graphic novel, as well as columns for various publications. His book Great Bus Journeys Of The World, co-written with David Stafford, is mostly a collection of his columns for Time Out and the Sunday Mirror. In 2004, Sayle was one of eight contributory authors to the BBC Three competition End Of Story, in which members of the public completed the second half of stories written by established authors. The winning entry to Sayle's story, Imitating Katherine Walker, was written by freelance writer Arthur Allan.

On 3 November 2006 he presented Chopwell Soviet, a 30-minute programme on BBC Radio 4 that reviewed the Chopwell miners 80 years after the village of Chopwell became known as Little Moscow.

In 2008, Sayle wrote and presented Alexei Sayle's Liverpool, a three-part television series in which he reconnected with his hometown. He stated in the programmes that on first hearing that Liverpool was to be awarded the European Capital of Culture, he received much criticism for describing the city as 'philistine'. He now feels that he doesn't know whether or not his original statement was true, but as a result of making the series he does now consider Liverpool to be his home, and he has vowed to go back there more often in the future.

No comments: