Alexei Sayle’s Stuff (BBC2, 1988-1991)/The All-New Alexei Sayle Show (BBC2, 1994-1995)/Alexei Sayle’s Merry-Go-Round (BBC2, 1998)
Alexei Sayle is another one of those comedians who was part of the alternative comedy scene. Some of his earliest TV appearances were taking part in late-night Tiswas spin-off OTT. Although he quickly realised that this style wasn’t really for him, and he soon turned up in the much more comfortable area of The Young Ones. He even went on to have a hit single.
By the late-80s, he was well-known enough to launch the first in his trilogy of sketch shows. First was Alexei Sayle’s Stuff. As well as the sketches, he took the opportunity to rant on about various things, whatever they were, and wherever he was. What was notable was that the writers included Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, who would go on to further success individually.
But this meant that there were rather a lot of bizarre moments, in a rather similar style to End Of Part One, the sketch show that they created about a decade earlier. And among the support cast was Angus Deayton, who was going to become a big name in comedy too. The combination of all this was rather fast-paced, and you couldn’t take your eyes away. I think that unlike the later series, this has been released on DVD.
Next was The All-New Alexei Sayle Show, which was to some extent more of the same, but this was with different writers and a new support cast. Along with the usual rambling routines, there were a few regular sketches, including Australian soap parody Psycho Ward 11, and science-fiction parody Drunk In Time. Another highlight was the useless comedian Bobby Chariot, who struggled with a lot of things.
Also around this time, he was in the little-seen but rather bizarre sitcom Paris. There was one more spin on this idea with Alexei Sayle’s Merry-Go-Round. By this point, he had been in the business for about two decades, and he had perfected his routine, there were more observations in unlikely locations, along with the return of Bobby Chariot.
After this, despite having no further TV sketch shows, he has continued to contribute to comedy, more now on the radio. In recent years, he has hosted Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar, where now older and wiser, he looked back on what he has learned about life and the world, and Strangers On A Train, where he interviewed various people who he was travelling with to learn their stories.