Lee Mack

Lee Mack

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?

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Not Going Out series 8

TV preview by Steve Bennett

Setting records for longevity means Not Going Out has had to be adaptable, working around the loss of its original female lead (Megan Dodds), its slapstick comic foil (Miranda Hart) and its second male lead (Tim Vine).

Now, for series eight, it has undergone its most substantial regeneration yet, as the will-they-won’t they romance between Lee Mack’s character Lee and Sally Bretton’s Lucy has been resolved conclusively. 

The timeline has moved on seven years since the end of the last season and they are now married with three kids, the sitcom’s gorgeous establishing shots of London’s nocturnal skyline replaced with ariel swoops over suburban high streets where they now live, toys scattered on every step of their home. The very title, which once referred to their relationship status, now acknowledges their non-existent social life, restrained by responsibility.

Not Going Out has never been ashamed of being a sitcom. The first-hand ‘dramedy’ realism of Fleabag or Catastrophe, so in vogue, comes a distant second to the gags delivered to a studio audience from an old-school fixed three-wall set. The child actors here are very much stage school ‘sitcom kids’, affecting the innocent look or adorably saying ‘uh-oh!’ like Outnumbered’s authentic dialogue  never happened. Yet that doesn’t men the audience don’t relate to Lee and Lucy’s more everyday travails on which all those gags are hung.

The plot for this opening episode is as old as it comes, as the long-married couple fret about whether the romance and intimacy has evaporated from the relationship - especially as one of them has forgotten their anniversary. There’s a bit of a twist, though, as it’s the husband voicing these fears as the wife forgot… especially as Mack’s alter ego is supposed to be the feckless one.

In the new dynamic, Bretton has a more substantial role, beyond eye-rolling at the follies of wisecracking Lee, and relishes it. Meanwhile the supporting cast provide plenty of comic potential, too, not least those who emphasise the class divide at the heart of this sitcom, like so many before it. Stand-outs are Abigail Cruttenden’s loathsomely snobby Anna, and Geoffrey Whitehead’s conservative, superior and constantly disapproving Geoffrey Probably the biggest laugh of the opening episode comes as he says simply: ‘Most pleasant’ - demonstrating his mastery of understatement and timing.

Not Going Out isn’t the sort of emotive, appointment-to-view comedy that so many artistically motivated comics are making. But the rarity of being a light sitcom that’s dependably funny thanks to script and character – not the dated, grating extravagance of the likes of Citizen Khan or Mrs Brown’s Boys – is quite the achievement. No wonder it’s future is assured. The day Not Going Out is not going out on TV is a long way off.

• Not Going Out returns to BBC One at 9pm tonight, with two more series already commissioned.

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Published: 13 Jan 2017

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