STAFFORD comedy fans will be among the first to see the iconic Alexei Sayle in his return to stand up after a 17-year lay-off when he strolls on to the stage at the Gatehouse Theatre tonight.
Until this year the last full-length comedy gig the godfather of alternative comedy performed was in Australia in 1996.
Although he never made a conscious decision to stop, he had been working non stop since the original Comedy Store opened in 1979.
His workload included touring, acting, writing and making five television series.
“I believe I was worn out, bereft of inspiration and couldn’t see where there was left for me to go in terms of live performance,” he said.
“I think I also assumed that when I stopped, comedy too would somehow stop, shows would wither away leaving just a few bitter men standing in front of microphones in almost empty rooms.Of course in my absence live comedy has grown into an industry bigger than aerospace, petro-chemicals and car manufacturing combined.”
Rather than take advantage of the wave of comedy he spent nearly a decade and a half as a serious author
selling his books. Now 61 he has decided to tread the boards again
starting with five weeks at a small theatre in London then at the Edinburgh Festival.
“It was very nerve-wracking as the thing about comedy is it is nearly impossible to tell how funny you are unless you try out in front of an audience. On top of that I wondered if the things that engage and enrage me would still connect with a modern audience. To my immense relief it has gone very well - better than I dared hope.”
Rather than re-emerge with all his old material he chose not to play it safe and started with a clean sheet.
“Time passes and tastes change and you have to accept that the world has moved on. So now my performance is different in that I'm calmer, the audience is calmer, and there's less danger of violence – either from me or them.
“However some things have not completely changed - although I now perform much more autobiographical material aiming for a more laid-back, mature and wryly anecdotal way, as soon as I get in front of an audience, the old manic energy possesses me and I realise that I'm still full of anger.”
Alexei Sayle will be at the Gatehouse today at 8pm and tickets are £17 no concessions.