Gas (Channel 4, 1997-1998)
This is a show that I don’t remember watching at the time, but for a while I have been interested in finding out more about it, and here’s why. In the 90s, there were lots of TV shows that featured various comedians doing their stand-up routines in front of a studio audience, and some of them went on to bigger things after gaining this early exposure. One of these shows was Gas, which launched on Channel 4 in a late-night slot in 1997.
Now there are a few reasons why this one caught my interest. Firstly, it was because of the host, who was a young Lee Mack. Now he definitely has gone on to further success, including The Sketch Show, before going on to host a few other shows including a short-lived comedy chat show, and his sitcom Not Going Out will soon be returning for an 11th series. I also have all of his stand-up stage shows that have been released on DVD.
My mum is a fan of his too. A while ago she was in the studio audience for various radio comedy shows, but his was the one that she enjoyed the most. He was very funny, and his energetic stream of endless gags just makes you want to laugh. So I decided to look on YouTube and see if there were any clips from the show on there. And pleasingly I found enough to be able to do this piece.
Gas (so called because there was a lot of vapour on the brightly-coloured stage) was usually shown around 11:30pm (there was also a trail for the show in the Countdown studio for some reason), and Lee would introduce various acts from the quirkier and more alternative end of the stand-up scene who performed in front of the rather lively audience. Of course, looking back at this show over two decades later makes it interesting to see who did make it out of everyone who appeared.
But the reason that I really wanted to see some of Gas was because among the performers were two blokes called Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt (with no moustache?!) in what must have been some of their earliest TV appearances before they went on to more success with The Mighty Boosh (I like The Mighty Boosh, deal with it). Also featuring were Jason Byrne and Peter Kay, who didn’t end up doing too badly for himself. Gas returned for a second series in 1998 with more of the same, but that was it.
Unsurprisingly there has been no DVD release, and Gas doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but it was fun to watch. It is rather tempting to make the “why don’t they do TV shows like this nowadays?” comment, when actually they do, because recently on Channel 4 there was Harry Hill’s Clubnite, where the big-collared comedian introduced the latest wave of stand-ups. I wonder how many of them will still be a regular on TV in two decades time.