Alexei David Sayle. Born Liverpool 7th August 1952.
Parents Molly (Malka) Sayle ne Mendelson and Joseph Henry Sayle.
Married 1974 to Linda Rawsthorn.
Anfield Road Junior School. 1958-1964
Alsop Grammar School. 1964-1969
Southport College of Art. 1969-1971
Chelsea School of Art. 1971-1974
1978-1979. Garnett College Roehampton. [After being more or less unemployed for four years I thought might have to become a college lecturer so I did this one year course on teaching in further education. The exam was on the Monday after the Comedy Store opened and I’d been on stage until 2a.m. so I left the exam ninety minutes early but they gave me a degree anyway. I also got offered a job at the college where I did my teacher training so for the first year of my career I was teaching during the day and then cycling to gigs at night.]
1979-1980. Drama Lecturer North London College Holloway. [My students won the Evening News drama competition that year against Oxford University and one of my students, Eamon Walker, is now a big movie star. None of that is down to me since I was usually asleep in a cupboard]
1979-1980. First Mc of London’s Comedy Store.
1979. Alexei Sayle and the Fish People. Capital 95.8. Capital was very much your cheezy local radio station but late at night me and David Stafford made these two insane series about me working as a council funded community detective on a housing estate in Stoke Newington. We won the Pye (later Sony) radio award that year.
1979. TV series- Wolcott. I think this might have been my first telly. Wolcott was a series about a black detective which was very pioneering for 1979. I played a heckler who got into a fight with another hecklerplayed by Keith Allen at a political meeting in Ridley Road Market. I recall me and Keth were hysterical with excitement at being in a TV show and that Keith, being much more convivial than me, got invited into the house of some of the people who lived next to the location. I seem to remember him leaning out of a window and shouting “Lex there’s a bloke here with a pet goose!”
1980. Alexei Sayle and the Dutch Lieutenants Trousers. Capital 95.8.
1980. Edinburgh Festival with Tony Allen. In summer 1980 I quit the Comedy Store after attempting to strangle one of the owners, a guy called Peter Rosengard. I was convinced that without me the whole enterprise would fold. A theatre troup based at Bristol University called Bristol Express asked me and Tony if we wanted to go up to Edinburgh and do a half hour of comedy each. They had the crazy idea that you could put on a late night standup comedy show up there. I think we went on at 10p.m. at the Heriot Watt Theatre and that was considered the middle of the night, we were empty for a couple of nights, then word spread and we were full. This little show started several traditons at Edinburgh, firstly of course all the thousands of standup shows spread from those few appearances and secondly, afterwards Bristol Express wrote to me and Tony and said that although we were packed out nearly every night they hadn’t made any money so we didn’t get paid.
1980-81. Mc Comic Strip Club. While I was up in Edinburgh Peter Richardson phoned and said he wanted to move all the best acts at the Comedy Store to a new place and would I be the Mc. Based in Raymonds Revue Bar Soho the regular lineup was Me, Arnold Brown, French and Saunders, Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson.
1980. Granada TV. Celebration. This was a North West only arts programme but we managed to turn it into a one off half hour comedy show shot on film. It was directed by David Liddament who was later head of ITV and the researcher was Jon Plowman later head of comedy at the BBC. Granada were so worried about it that they had Frank Carson record a little piece before the show went out saying that although the viewers might find the style somewhat alienating I was really funny if they just gave me a chance-they didn’t.]
1980-1981. Boom Boom Out Go the Lights. BBC 2. Paul Jackson, currently head of comedy at ITV was the first to see the potential of the Comic Strip and manage to get it on national TV. The set was a fake club and the audience sat around drinking coloured water because they couldn’t be served alcohol. I Mc’d the second one, I thought the floor manager was a big fan because she kept waving at me but she was just trying to get me off the stage because I was going on too long. These two shows made no impression whatsoever]
1981. Comic Strip UK Tour. In late ‘81 we left Soho for a national tour, we had a big bus and everything. However Peter Richardson could get a bit experimental with venues and our opening night was in a porn cinema on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. This snap must have been taken that day by my wife Linda seeing as she’s not on the merrygoround. I think it’s some little town near Berwick which appears to be equipped with its own Greek Masoleum. The big bus had either stopped or broken down. As well as Me, Dawn, Jennifer, Rik, Ade, Arnold, Pete and Nigel there’s Peter’s wife Marta, and our musicians, Roland, Simon and Rod. We all look heartbreakingly young and optimistic.]
1982. OTT Live late night ITV comedy show, hosted by Chris Tarrant, with Lenny Henry, Bob Carolgees and spit the dog and Helen Atkinson Wood. I was convinced this was going to be my big break.
1982. Comic Strip Tour of Australia. It says on Wikepedia that I left OTT because of disapointment with the show but in fact the Comic Strip Tour had always been scheduled for early March. Not that I wasn’t disapointed with the reception that OTT got.
1982. Comic Roots. BBC 2. Comic Roots was a series in which established comics like Billy Connelly went on at great length about what made them so great. I thought that might be a bit presumptuous of me since my career was only three years old and outside London no bugger knew who I was, so I made a film about a theme I would later return to, i.e.-the difficulty of getting a drink outside licencing hours in the Britain of the 80’s and 90’s. It was also the first time I employed the technique of doing standup on film, while walking through outside locations in a tight suit, a technique I would later incorporate into my own TV series.
1982. The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. Movie of the charity concert held the previous year. The first Secret Policeman’s had made a big star of Rowen Atkinson, I thought this film would do the same for me (because I was the biggest hit on the night), my wife said “why would you think that?”
1982. First series of The Young Ones. We’d made the pilot in the winter of ‘81and Rik and Lise Mayer worked on the scripts for the rest of the series while we were in Australia in ‘82. Though audiences built slowly we knew right away that it was a hit.
1982. Cak! Live Standup Album.
1982. The Private Life of the Ford Cortina. Arena Documentary BBC 2
1982. The Alexei Sayle Pirate Video. The guy who produced this had the brilliant idea that rather than being in a conventional box the video should come in a brown paper bag so it kept falling off the shelves of the few shops that stocked it.
1982. Whoops Apocalypse. TV Series. This was a sitcom about nuclear war written by two extraordinary writers - David Renwick and Andrew Marshall.
1983. Gorky Park. Movie. This was my first proper movie.
1883-84. Building on the Young Ones sucess I began touring live with my own two hour standup show. I tried to keep the venues as unexperimental as possible but this was still very early days before the comedy circuit became the slick operation it is now, so you could still find yourself performing on a stage made of some milk crates in a disco in Grimsby.
1984. After first being released in 1982 my song Ullo John! Got a New Motor? got to number fifteen in the charts two years later and I appear on Top of the Pops.
1984. The Fish People Tapes. Album of the radio series.
1982 - 2005. The Comic Strip Presents. At first I didn’t want to be in the Comic Strip films on Channel 4. I had some mad idea that our gang shouldn’t be on BBC 2 and Channel 4 at the same time. Once Peter persuaded me to be in the Supergrass movie I realised how stupid I was being and was lucky enough to be in a couple of the really good Comic Strips, most notably The Strike my own Didn't You Kill My Brother?.
1984. Second series of the Young Ones.
1984. Train To Hell. — novel co-written with David Stafford
1985. The Supergrass. Movie.
1985. The Bride. Movie.
1985. Great Bus Journey of the World. Column for Time Out. I wrote this with David Stafford, each week I would pretend to take a different bus journey. I remember one brilliant little bit written by David about how Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf used to get the number 24 every Friday from Tottenham Court Road to visit Lytton’s Auntie Kathleen who was a dinner lady at All Souls Primary School in Camden Town and how Lytton used to sit upstairs at the front and pretend to ‘drive’ the bus.
1985. Didn't You Kill My Brother? Single.
1985. Panic (album, CBS, 1985)
1985. Whoops Apocalypse. Movie.
1986. Meanwhile (single, CBS, 1986)
1986. Solarbabies. Movie.
1987. Siesta. Really, really, bad movie.
1987. Up LIne. TV drama series.
1987. Sunday Mirror Column. I loved doing this column, at that time something like eight million people read the Sunday Mirror and the ones who liked my column seemed like really nice people.
1987. Revelation Of The Daleks. Doctor Who.
1987. Geoffrey The Tube Train And The Fat Comedian graphic novel.
1988. Alexei Sayle's Stuff. TV series. After Whoops Apocalypse me, David Renwick and Andrew Marshall had been keen to work together again. We devised a mock documentary series incorporating sketches and my technique of doing standup on film, while walking through outside locations in a tight suit. We made a pilot, Alan Yentob head of BBC 2 wasn’t entirely convinced but he showed it to John Loyd producer of Not the NIne O’clock News who urged him to make it. So then we got the go ahead for a series and it cleaned up nearly all the awards that year including Broadcast Press Guild and Royal Television Society.
1988. Lenin of the Rovers. Radio series produced by the late Harry Thompson.
1988. The Tempest directed by Jonathan Miller at the Old Vic.
1989. Alexei Sayle's Great Bus Journeys Of The World collected colums.
1989. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Movie.
1989. Alexei Sayle's Stuff. Second series. My stuff was all honed live and David and Andrew’s sketches often surpassed the work they did on the first series, particularly the opening sequence.
1990. Night Voice. TV Movie. I never managed to get the right acting part in a movie (partly because I never took it seriously enough) but I did some really interesting work on TV. Though I was often cast as hard cases I was best as insecure, slimey people as in this piece about a late night DJ.
1990. The Gravy Train. Drama Series.
1990. 'Itch. TV movie written by me and David Stafford about a hitchiker stuck on a traffic island for a year.
1991. Alexei Sayle's Stuff. Third series. By now David Renwick was working on the first series of One Foot in the Grave and Andy was off doing other work so this perhaps didn’t quite have the energy of the first two series, though it’s still really good.
1991. Selling Hitler. TV Drama Series.
1991. Australian Comedy tour.
1992. Carry On Columbus. As long as I live I’ll never undestand why I agreed to be in this terrible movie.
1993. Sex Drugs and Dinner. BBC 2 TV Documentary. Quite ahead of its time this film about the insanities of modern food production won Best Network Programme in the One World Awards (no I don’t know what that is either but it sounds important).
1993. Reckless Kelly. Movie.
1993. Rubbish, King of the Jumble. Kids TV animation series.
1994. The All New Alexei Sayle Show. First series. At first I tried to write my fourth TV series myself but then my friend Sioned William introduced me to two young Irish writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews. The result was easily as good as Stuff and that year we won the Bronze Rose of Montreux (only beaten out of the Gold because of the conniving of an Irish undercover priest from Vatican TV who objected to something I’d said about the Pope). Also won the international emmy for best comedy which I only found out about when my mother in law phoned to say there was footage on the morning news of Benny Hill picking up my award.
1994. Drive. This is a series I made for the BBC about how to drive properly. They still show it at driving school to people who’ve been done for traffic offences who all probably now hate me.
1994. Paris. Sitcom. It seems the world wasn’t ready for a sitcom set in the artistic community of Paris in the 1920’s though Graham and Arthur did get to make all the mistakes here that they’d avoid when they produced Father Ted.
1995. The All New Alexei Sayle Show. Second series. Some truly wonderful comedy allied to the inspired direction of Metin Huseyin and the camerawork of Cinders Forshaw.
1995. Sorry About Last Night. TV Movie. This is a lovely script and the film is fine but if I was doing it again I’d recast the lead man so he wasn’t me. Nevertheless the BBC commisioned a series which I never got round to writing. Though I did do it later as a radio series. (You can see there is a lack of planning about this career).
1995. Final UK Comedy Tour. By now I’d had enough of standup.
1996. Comment column in the Independent. Over the years I’ve written regularly for the Observer, Independent, Car magazine, Time Out and the Independent Motoring Supplement. At a distance I love the newspaper business though I doubt I would want to see it much closer up.
1996. Australian Comedy Tour. By now I’d certainly had enough of standup.
1996. Great Railway Journeys of the World. Aleppo to Aquaba. TV Documentary.
1997. Rhinoceros Hunting in Budapest. Weird indy movie.
1998. Alexei Sayle's Merry-Go-Round. I really like this series. From me there is this insane, conflicted energy of a man who doesn’t quite know where he’s going with his life, allied to the exhilarating direction of a 22 year old Edgar Wright. (I notice that neither Graham and Arthur nor Edgar have rewarded me for my early encouragement of their careers with cameo roles in the IT crowd, Spaced, Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. That probably tells you more about me than them).
1998. Dance Night. BBC 2. I co-presented this whole evening of dance with the ballerina Deborah Bull. It was a fun thing to do as I’ve always been interested in dancing but I also felt like a bit of a fraud. In the huge autobiography I am writing in my mind the chapters concerning the period between Sorry about last Night in ‘95 and Barcelona Plates are headed “The Wilderness Years”
1999. Swing. Movie.
1999. Sorry About Last Night . Radio 4 Series.
2000. Arabian Nights. TV Movie.
2000. Barcelona Plates. short story collection. Even before Merry-Go-Round and the last standup tour I was feeling a little lost. I wanted to move on from comedy but didn’t know where to go. When Barcelona Plates was published to such critical acclaim, (Douglas Adams said in the Guardian “Brilliant comedy and brilliant tragedy in one stunning sentence...it reminded me most of nothing I’d ever read before”) and wonderful sales figures I felt like I’d come home and fell in love with the book industry in a way I’d never done with light entertainment. Like a middle aged man going all gooey over his second wife.
2001. Lose Weight...Ask Me How. TV movie of one of my short stories starring me.
2001. A Thing Possibly About Salsa Dancing. I think I did some progamme about salsa dancing or tango for BBC 4 or somebody, round about this period but I can find no reference to it with a two second look on Google. Anyway technically this sounds like it should be in the wilderness years.
2001. The Dog Catcher. Second short story collection.
2002. Tipping The Velvet. TV drama. I bumped into Cinders Forshaw in a restaurant and she said she was about to start shooting a costume drama full of lesbian sex scenes. I said “can you get me a part?”
2003. Keen Eddie. US TV Series. There was a young, blonde actress working on this called Sienna Miller, who was not particularly good in a not very big part. When it went out I saw it hailed in the UK press as “Sienna’s TV series huge hit in the States” Fox cancelled it after four episodes.
2003. Overtaken. Novel. Jonathan Coe in the Guardian-”wonderfully entertaining and tells us a lot about what its like to live in 21st century Britain.”
2004. End Of Story. Short story competition.
2006. The Thief Lord. Strange movie shot in Luxembourg.
2006. Chopwell Soviet BBC Radio 4 series.
2006. The Weeping Women Hotel. Novel.
2007. Alexei Sayle's Alternative Take. BBC Radio 2 series. I loved doing this series of comedy clips. Everybody else is funny and I get the credit.
2008. Alexei Sayle's Liverpool. BBC 2 Documentary series. This was the first series with my name on it for ten years and I was really pleased both with the reception and the viewing figures. There are so many poor documentaries around these days, full of false jeopardy and fake emotion so I thought it was important to tell Liverpool’s story in an honest and genuine way.
2008. Migrant Music. BBC Radio 2. Documentary about music from eastern europe being played in the UK.
2008. Where Did all the Money Go? Radio series for the Smooth Network.
2008. Mister Roberts. Novel. Buy this book it will change your life. (Probably for the better).