Alexei Sayle

Alexei Sayle

Date of birth: 07-08-1952

Born in Anfield, Liverpool to Communist-Jewish parents, Sayle replied to an advert for would-be comedians when the London Comedy Store opened in 1979. He became the alternative venue's first compere, and largely set the tone for an emerging scene that mixed stand-up, character and oddball cabaret.

He subsequently joined the breakaway Comic Strip club, handing over the Comedy Store MC job to Ben Elton, and featured in several of the Channel 4 films that featured their core performers. His most notable role was playing the two leading roles in Didn't You Kill My Brother?

On stage, he performed as an angry, politically-aware Marxist stage persona in an ill-fiitting suit -a persona he revived in The Young Ones,portraying several members of an Eastern European family, the Balowskis, who owned the squalid student house where the anarchic sitcom was set.

He made three series of Alexei Sayle's Stuff, running from 1988 to 199 and winning an international Emmy alon gthe way, two series of The All New Alexei Sayle Show (1994–95) and one series of Alexei Sayle's Merry-Go-Round (1998)

He has also made film appearances in Gorky Park, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the 1992 Carry On film, Carry On Columbus and had a 1984 Top 20 hit with Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?

However he eased back on performing to become an author, and has two short story anthologies and five novels to his name. But after 16 years away from stand-up, Sayle returned to compere gigs in 2011.

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Sir Lenny Henry to profile his legends of comedy

Paul Whitehouse, Sally Phillips, Romesh Ranganathan and Alexei Sayle

Sir Lenny Henry is to profile the comedy careers of Paul Whitehouse, Sally Phillips, Romesh Ranganathan and Alexei Sayle in a new Channel 4 series.

All four are described as Sir Lenny’s ‘comedy heroes’ – and he said: ‘It was great fun spending time with my friends and hearing about what makes them laugh and what they take inspiration from. I hope the audience enjoys it as much as I did.’

The series, entitled Legends of Comedy with Lenny Henry, will air later this year and promises ‘a mix of in-depth, illuminating chats [and] archive clips’ as it investigates ‘the true genius of comedy’.

Channel 4 commissioning editor Deborah Dunnett  said: ‘It’s a true privilege to be bringing the legendary Sir Lenny Henry together with such a fantastic line-up of talented and brilliantly funny comedians to learn more their careers, their heroes and their craft. I can’t wait to see the chats between Lenny and his fabulous guests, which are guaranteed to be very very funny.’

The programme is being made by production company Red Sauce along with Sir Lenny’s own firm Douglas Road Productions.

 Tom Edwards, creative director of Red Sauce, said: ‘It’s a joy to craft an entirely new comedy-ents format with a performer like Sir Lenny. It’s a really fresh way to carve up the comedy space, full of genuine insight and hearty laughs.’

Sir Lenny is currently starring in his playwriting debut, August In England, a one-man play about the Windrush scandal at the Bush Theatre in West London.

Legends of Comedy with Lenny Henry production credits

Made by: Red Sauce and Douglas Road Productions
Commissioned by: Deborah Dunnett and Jayne Stanger, commissioning editors, daytime and geatures, with Jo Street, head of daytime and features
Executive producers: Ben Smith for Red Sauce and Angela Ferreira for Douglas Road Productions

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Published: 16 May 2023

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