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Page 3 Profile: Alexei Sayle, comedian

Tell us a joke, then…

Alexei Sayle is on the warpath – but it’s no laughing matter.

The stand-up veteran, of course?

That he is. When the The Comedy Store opened in London in 1979, Sayle, born and raised in Liverpool, became its first master of ceremonies. His routines focussed heavily on politics and he was known for his left-wing beliefs and ferocious delivery.

I haven’t heard much from him in a while…

Sayle, now 61, has been out of the limelight for a few years but is now back and, true to form, has a bee in his bonnet.

What’s the problem?

At TV channel Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, Sayle lamented the demise of stand-up. In a dig at fellow comics who fill arenas (think Michael McIntyre), he said: “Like McDonald’s, they keep their material extremely bland, telling people stuff they already knew about safe subjects like child-rearing and sheds. I feel no animus towards these arena guys but it’s not art, it’s just passing the time.” He then admitted: “Okay, maybe there is some animus.”

Anything else to get off his chest?

Rather unexpectedly, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch was given a tongue-lashing.

Cumberbatch? Why?

Sayle believes the number of public school alumni monopolising the arts distorts British culture. Of the Harrow-educated Sherlock star, he said: “Benedict Cumberbatch is a wonderful actor but if my cat had the facilities he had at Eton [sic], my cat could be in Sherlock.”

Did anyone get his seal of approval?

Surprisingly, yes. Sayle said: “There are comedians who have made a conscious decision to shun the mainstream of panel shows, voiceovers and arenas. They are doing more interesting and innovative work to intelligent audiences with open minds.” Sayle gave Stewart Lee, Isy Suttie and Paul Foot a thumbs-up. “I think of these as my real comedy children and, hopefully, they will accept their estranged dad back into the  family home.”

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