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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TV preview by Steve Bennett

The gimmick of Lee Mack’s new sitcom pilot Semi-Detached is that all the action unfolds in real time. 

It gives the show a real sense of urgency, like a domestic Thick Of It, as chaos is heaped upon chaos. In frenetic desperation, Mack’s hapless character Stuart makes terrible decisions that make his situation all the worse.

This brisk 20-minute sampler, the last of the New On Two series of pilots snuck out over the festive period, starts with the sound of screaming as Stuart’s over-emotional girlfriend April (Ellie White) goes into labour, and the emotions and the agony only intensify from there.

In the sort of coincidence that’s only normal in Sitcomland, Stuart’s ex-wife Kate (Samantha Spiro) lives across the road, and is called upon to rush the imminent mother-to-be to hospital. But then her new husband, played with trademark smarm by The Office alumnus Patrick Baladi, comes a cropper too – and patching him up adds a new level of farce.

Throw into the mix Stuart’s drug-smoking, promiscuous gay father (Clive Russell, relishing a deliciously outré role), a daughter Madonna (Sarah Hoare) showing signs of teenage rebellion, an errant brother (Neil Fitzmaurice) unexpectedly showing up while on the run from the law and a tipsy if well-meaning neighbour played by Geoff McGivern, and there are plenty of seeds planted for a bounteous harvest of panicky comedy.

Writers David Crow and Oliver Maltman keep their script as tight as the dramatic events demand, and while a couple of lines feel familiar (such as Stuart telling his daughter that his new, younger, girlfriend is ‘old enough to be your significantly older sister’) the vast majority emerge naturally from characters under pressure.

There may be questions over whether the furious pace can be sustained for the extra 50 per cent running time required for the traditional BBC sitcom half-hour. Or indeed whether such maelstroms of mayhem can be conjured up week after week. But this is a promising germ for that holy grail of comedy commissioners everywhere: a mainstream suburban sitcom that doesn’t suck.

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Published: 6 Jan 2019

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