Real name:Lee Gordon McKillop
Born in Blackburn and raised in Southport, Lee Mack started in comedy after a series of casual jobs, including stableboy and working in a bingo hall. His first taste of stand-up came as a Pontin's bluecoat.
His frist experience of the wider circuit came in 1994, when he did his first open mike slot while a student at Brunel University, West London. Within 18 months, he had won the So You Think You're Funny new act competition at the 1995 Edinburgh Fringe and become a full-time comedian.
In 1996, he returned to the festival as part of an ensemble show, Gagging For It, and the following year he performed the solo show Return Of The Mack. He had some level of fame by then, having hosted the Channel 4 stand-up show Gas, but found the experience of performing alone disheartening.
So in 1999, he teamed up with Catherine Tate and Dan Antopolski for the Fringe sketch show Lee Mack's Bits, and the 2000 follow-up was nominated for the Perrier. On the strength of that, Mack became one of the key players in ITV's The Sketch Show, which ran from 2001 to 2003. He was the only member of the UK cast to feature in the short-lived American remake, introduced by Kelsey Grammer, in 2004.
The following year he landed the job of host on BBC One sports quiz They Think It's All Over, taking over from Nick Hancock. But the programme was cancelled after one series with Mack in the chair.
He then moved to sitcom, premiering the traditional studio-based Not Going Out on BBC One in October 2006, at a time when that style was thought to be dead. The show returned for a second series in September 2007 and a third in January 2009. It has won Rose d'Or and Royal Television Society awards.
Mack is also a team captain on the BBC One panel show Would I Lie To You?
Lee Mack Videos
Lee Mack: Going Out
Lee Mack is probably the only famous comic of modern times to have served his apprenticeship as a Pontin’s bluecoat. On the strength of this bravura performance, breathlessly pacey and full of irresistible good cheer, the holiday camp circuit would still serve as the perfect drill sergeant for any stand-up in search of a bullet-proof delivery.
Mind you, Mack was sacked for inadvertently calling his audience the sort of four-letter word that would get this page blocked by all but the laxest firewalls, so it’s clear he’s not fully adopted the family-friendly approach of those seaside getaways that taught him so much stagecraft.
And that’s the joy of this blisteringly funny show, still officially in previews. It’s reassuringly old-fashioned, yet with modern sensibilities – making it seem as fresh as it is familiar. Not for nothing is Mack inevitably compared to Eric Morecambe, as he’s got that effortless cheeky charm that ensures you love him even when he’s insulting you. Hell, you love him BECAUSE he’s insulting you.
His mischievous banter is a joy, teasing the women for being old or badly-dressed, and the men for being paedophiles. They’re not just throwaway jibes, though, but set-ups for solid jokes, lifted by the propellant of spontaneity provided by Mack’s quick-witted backchat. Elements of the audience here in Andover are surprisingly frisky, but he spins every audience interaction – even the seemingly less welcome interruptions – into ribald quips.
He’s a one-man gang show, the force of his knockabout performance rarely less than phenomenal, especially when he splutters in mock outrage at not being treated with the respect a professional artiste deserves.
Personality is paramount but the material’s working hard too. You’re probably never more than 30 seconds from another punchline, whether it be a daft pun, good-natured abuse, or something saucily sexual, like a McGill seaside postcard updated for the 2010s and made flesh by Mack’s spirited energy. Though some of this is far too racy for the 11-year-olds in the audience; be in no doubt that this is an adult show.
Even when Mack tries to quieten the atmosphere, dropping his voice for some false sincerity about, say, the death of Michael Jackson, his inherent daftness is such that the air is heavy with anticipation, titters foreshadowing the hilarious line that is sure to come along and undermine the mood.
There’s the odd ‘pull-back-to-reveal’ gag or guessable wordplay, but other than that he’s an unpredictable cyclone, keeping the audience on their toes by bombarding them with jokes so fast you can’t keep up. Sometimes broad, sometimes subtle, he never loses the capacity to surprise, nor to spread the bawdy fun, teasing the audience until the entire set becomes one big in-joke we’re all in on.
You’re guaranteed not to learn anything in this show, nor hear any point of view – a style which has been largely, and undeservedly, out of fashion. But that scarcity only makes Mack’s breezy approach seem even more refreshing.
It may only be mid-January, but we already have a contender for the most uncomplicatedly funny show of the year, full of belly laughs from start to finish. If you can’t enjoy this, maybe comedy’s not really for you…
Lee Mack Dates
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Radio 2 showBest Of Just For Laughs: 25th Anniversary Edition
Compilation CD from the Montreal comedy festivalNot Going Out Series 1