Lara A King
Larry The Cable Guy
Late Night Gimp Fight
On the art of stand-up
For BBC New Comedy Awards
More Lee Mack videos
|On the art of stand-up|
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?
April Fool for Mencap
Another week, another benefit. After Comic Relief and the Royal Albert Hall’s Teenage Cancer Trust gig, and amid a smattering of post-earthquake fundraisers (Russell Howard headlines a biggie at London’s Lyric Theatre on the 11th), comes this April Fool gig for Mencap, boasting such a hugely impressive line-up that they could surely have filled the 3,000-capacity Hammersmith Apollo several times over.
Jo Brand, with her background in mental health, was the obvious choice of host, and used her expertise to clarify the difference between learning difficulties, where Mencap works, and mental illness in the only momentary bit of earnestness of the night. More importantly, she is increasingly adopting the role of comedy’s matron, an unflappable rock of stability who, knows there’s a job to be done, so will damn well get on and do it as no one else can be trusted to. She suffers no nonsense in life, or on stage, batting away the ironic wolf-whistles with her world-weary shrug.
The compering duties were occasionally taken up by with an under-used Miranda Hart, perhaps showing the charity can attract more big names than it quite knows what to do with. Still, it’s always nice to see her.
First full act of the night was the seemingly ubiquitous Jack Whitehall, turned out uncharacteristically smartly in a tailored suit. He mixed some topical issues, including the Midsomer Murders race row, with broader observational material such as his nostalgia for the simpler times of the Nokia 3310 mobile phone. Whitehall often comes across as a vessel for effective but impersonal gags that could be performed by almost anybody, and tonight was not exception. He performs flawlessly, and the writing is strong - although nothing in his set defines him as an individual.
The increasingly animated Chris Addison, however, has his own style, exaggerating simple remarks into cascading rapids of indignant fury. The impracticality of Ugg boots is often commented on, for example, but in his resolutely middle-class grouchiness, the rant is irresistibly impassioned; the fact that its trigger is so trivial making it all the more amusing. Nor is it only a tour de force of passion; the Thick Of It star has an eye for hilarious juxtaposition, as his Pope routine incontrovertibly proves.
Next, Miranda introduced her Hyperdrive co-star Kevin Eldon, who initially baffled the audience with his fragmented, surreal nonsense, as he deliberately struggled to find a coherent catchphrase and jiggled about with Cleesian crazy legs in a segment that perhaps belied his origins as an actor rather than a naturalistic stand-up. Even by the end of his offbeat set, I’m not convinced most knew what to make of him, although his comic songs gave more than enough inventive wit to relate to, whether in the form of the French Proclaimers or the witty, and beautifully executed, My CDs Jump.
Another of Miranda’s screen colleagues, next with Not Going Out’s Lee Mack and his supercharged Lancastrian charm. He blasted through such proven-to-be-effective routines as applying cinema’s ‘strong language’ warnings to real life, the Scouse dialect, or one-armed CBBC presenter Cerrie Burnell. Everything’s a joke to Mack – which, counterintuitively, isn’t a universal a approach in comedy these days – but it gives his routine an unprepossessing cherry charm, with a sackful of gags to match. It’s a grand combination, which made for a hugely entertaining turn.
After Catherine Tate literally poked her head around the stage flaps – why? – came the first genuine arena-filler of the night, in the bullet-headed form of Al Murray. The cracking pace of his audience banter, combined with the familiarity of his character which means we instantly know his views on, say, the male textiles teacher he unearths, makes this knockabout fun. His attempts to get the theatre involved in a shoutalong rendition on Incy Wincy Spider had mixed results, but the sight of a grown man dancing so emphatically, like a Thunderbirds puppet controlled by a two-year-old, is inherently uproarious.
Ms Tate returned for her proper turn at the start of part two, reprising the decade-old sketch where her favourite Nan character originated. It was from Lee Mack’s Perrier-nominated Edinburgh show, so with her old companion also on hand to provide her senile husband, this was an interesting slice of comic nostalgia. In this version, there’s hints of a role reversal, with Mack’s pensioner acting like an archetypal ‘old woman’ dithering over a familiar face on TV, while the wife has more masculine traits of swearing and vicious impatience.
Another treat next as Harry Hill made a rare return to the live comedy arena – and it’s marvellous to have him back, with his disjointed surrealism adding to his inventive, eccentric jokes – rather than being a fig leaf to conceal their absence. The style has become familiar, but there’s still plenty of invention in the writing, while his affectation of singing random song lyrics is made all the funnier given the overtly sexual content of the modern hits he chooses seems so out of place coming from a big-collared loon. Hopefully this is a precursor to more.
Stewart Francis, though perhaps not as well known as most of the comics on this bill, nonetheless proved a hit with his collection of impeccable one-liners, delivered with zen-like poise. His set offered a mix of old and new, but his well-honed gags bear repeated listening, while there’s certainly some prime contenders for future classics among the freshly-minted material. A class act.
Lucy Porter claimed this was her first night on stage since becoming a mum, and if true, would explain why much of her material about the romance going out of her relationship and the trails of motherhood seemed underpowered. Like many of her recent shows, it’s Porter’s delightful, elfin charm that ensures our attention, while the laughs need beefing up – and condensing. There are long build-ups to mid-level punchlines here. Still, she left us on her tried-and-tested routine about bank security questions than ensured she exited on a high.
So who was to be the headliner among the headliners? Step forward Sean Lock, with his appealing mix of insight, silliness and restrained performance; nicely building up a routine from a simple observation about the suitability of pirates as children’s icon, though to delightfully-expressed jibes at Jordan’s expense and on to a brilliantly imagined flight of fancy in which Madonna becomes (or is) a grotesque, sexually voracious predator, which he acts out with disturbing conviction. Don’t have nightmares.
He proved fine end to a fine night, the likes of which we won’t see until… well, the next star-heavy benefit. They’re a generous lot, comics.
|Date of live review: Monday 4th Apr, '11|
Review by Steve Bennett
Thursday 14th Jan, '10- Andover The Lights
Show - Misc live shows -
Friday 1st Jul, '05-
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2004 -
Show - Misc live shows -
Lee Mack's New Bits
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2000 -
I saw Lee a few times this year I think he is absolutely fantastic. Love him heaps xx
Saw Lee at Hammersmith on Monday - so good. He is such a naturally funny man. His warm up guy on the other hand was terrible. Not funny but racist, sexist and boring.Get rid Lee if you want any advice.
Great show last night in Liverpool. Lee Mack is great!
I also saw lee in buxton, it was fantastic, I was the one that told him that he left muddy footprints on stage
I saw Lee at Buxton and I thought he was fantastic. Extremely funny, great participation with the audience especially the start where he locked a member of the audience up in a box like a magic trick! He obviously researches the local area and includes this in his jokes. I would advise everyone to go and see Lee. A great, fun night which still makes me laugh now thinking of his jokes.
One of the best northern comedians EVER! Very talented
Lee Mack was brilliant at Cardiff last night. The show was full of new material. Lee does a lot of audience participation during the show which illustrates how skilful a comedian he is. He has a warmth and personality that draws the audience in- which allows him to get away with some risky jokes. Lee discusses the venues and the location of the gig in a funny and unique way. He has the energy of Lee Evans. The audience banter of Stephen K Amos. He also reminds me of Eric Morecambe. Lee depends on audience participation more than the other comics which makes each of his shows so unique. Even though I have compared Lee to some great comedians lets not forget he is totally unique in his delivery of material, style of jokes . I would definitely go and see him again. ***** (and that is not a a swear word)!
I want to marry lee. he is that funny xx
Lee Mack: Mack The Life
Not Going Out Series 5
Lee Mack: Going Out Live
Not Going Out Series 3
Not Going Out Series 2
Not Going Out Series 2
Lee Mack Live
The Lee Mack Show, Series 2
Radio 2 show
Best Of Just For Laughs: 25th Anniversary Edition
Compilation CD from the Montreal comedy festival
Not Going Out Series 1
Lee Mack's New Bits
Edinburgh Fringe 2001
Edinburgh and Beyond FHM Comedy Tour 2001
Edinburgh Fringe 2004
Misc live shows
Comedy Store's 30th Anniversary Charity Gala
Not Going Out
Lee Mack: Going Out
|Lee Gordon McKillop|