Alexei Sayle: Best comedian, best car, best not choose a rival

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I wrote in my last column about what sorts of cars left-wing people bought back in the late part of the last century.

I wrote in my last column about what sorts of cars left-wing people bought back in the late part of the last century. The right wing also had their own cars. If you were an old-fashioned, Little Britain sort of Tory, you'd stick with a British car, despite all the breakdowns and the terrible service; while if you were a new-money Thatcherite, you'd go for German - Mercedes, Audi or BMW.

Back then, it was also possible, for a while, to make an even more extreme right-wing statement by purchasing a vehicle. In the l980s and 1990s, Ford imported a pick-up truck to Britain that was built in one of its plants in what was then apartheid-riven South Africa. This truck was first based on the Cortina platform, which didn't look too bad, and later on the Sierra, which looked really strange. I think it was called the P100, and it always struck me that it was suspiciously popular with self-employed builders in Essex and the outer suburbs of London, despite its looks and the availability of superior products from Germany and Japan. Though cars don't really carry the same political freight as they did in the past, I still can't imagine that anybody left wing would choose to drive a Humvee.

I shouldn't really be writing about the 1980s. Over Christmas, I was on TV three times, each time in a programme about comedy in the Eighties. There was a documentary by Paul Merton about 25 years of the Comedy Store, and a film about the Secret Policeman's Ball in aid of Amnesty International. I mean, it's not as if I've done nothing since then - there's my sandwich bar, and there was my voiceover for The Link ad, in which I played a talking pocket with a Russian accent.

The third programme was The Comedians' Comedian on Channel 4, in which I failed to make the Top 50. You might think that I'd find this dispiriting, but to me it simply proves how important I am to the history of comedy and how influential I continue to be. You see, comedians are very driven - nobody who wasn't would put up with the stand-up life. There's no way these people would name anyone who is a threat to them as their favourite comedian - they're terrified of competition.

The fact that they chose Peter Cook as their No 1 comedian - who is dead so isn't going to challenge them; who was original but with a tiny body of idiosyncratic work, so he won't take DVD sales off them; who was a tragic screw-up and to whom none of them gave any work when he was alive - shows that he wasn't their favourite comic but rather the one it was safe to promote.

If you want to know who is the comic that they truly think is the best, the most original, most exciting performer they have ever seen, the one whom they all imitated, then you have to look for a person who doesn't appear on the list at all. That person, of course, is me.

I wonder whether the same is true of car awards. If the cars that win these awards aren't the ones that the judges think are the best but the ones that present no threat, then it would go some way to explaining some of the strange motors that have won the European Car of the Year Award.

I always thought it odd that informed people could choose such oddities as, in 1975-76, the Simca better known as the Chrysler Alpine, not a bad-looking car but addicted to rust and powered by a tappetty old Simca engine; in the 1989, the Fiat Tipo (can't recall anything about it), or, in 2002, the Peugeot 307 - a very peculiar-looking motor with a lot of electrical faults.

So, now we know why the most awarded manufacturer is Fiat (seven times), then Renault, Citroën, Peugeot. It's because they're actually the worst, not the best.

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