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: Halloween Special

TV review by Steve Bennett

Despite the growing popularity of trick or treat, special Halloween episodes of British sitcoms are still relatively rare. 

However, Motherland managed a well-timed instalment as part of its second series on Monday and now – snuck into the schedules with very little fanfare – comes this one-off from Lee Mack’s long-running comedy.

It’s got a later time-slot, too, although there’s nothing too post-watershed about it. ‘Contains mild peril’ as the DVD warning might say.

One main change from usual is that the action focusses almost entirely on Mack’s character – also called Lee – and the predicament he gets himself into. Sally Bretton’s Lucy and their screen kids are limited to the opening scene and a mid-episode moment of exposition.

Out trick-or-treating, they happen upon a scary Victorian house – in Elm Street, naturally – and get spooked by the vision of its ethereal occupant. In their rush to leave, Lee drops his phone and when he later goes back to retrieves it makes the sort of dumb, not-quite-convincing move sitcom characters sometimes do and finds himself trapped inside the sinister property.

There are a few gags, but this episode is far more about story and suspense than it is about laughs. We are not in genuinely chilling Inside No. 9-style territory, but Mack and co-writer Danny Peak do a good job at keeping the audience invested with plot developments which switch the peril. And that includes the arrival of Bobby Ball as Lee’s dad Frank, a character who is never going to make any situation better.

The episode looks great, too, with director Nick Wood and his design team relishing the chance to break away from the usual brightly-lit sitcom aesthetic to make the house and its inhabitant suitably eerie.

As with regular episodes of Not Going Out, this is a mass-appeal episode, but a good example of it: engaging and easy to consume ahead of a hard night’s trick or treating tomorrow. And was to why isn’t it going out on the 31st? Well, probably because that slot is reserved for the real-life horror show of Question Time.

• Not Going Out: Halloween Special airs on BBC One at 10.35pm tonight.

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Published: 30 Oct 2019

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