Ref NoBSUCA/JP/1/2/1/1
CollectionJohn Pidgeon Collection
TitleAlexei Sayle interviewed by John Pidgeon for 'Talking Comedy'
Name of creatorPidgeon, John, 1947-2016
Date01/04/1996
Duration1 hr. 1 min. 15 sec.
Extent1 sound cassette (DAT 94)
1 audio file Broadcast WAVE Format
DescriptionAlexei Sayle interviewed by John Pidgeon at The Sound Company, London, for 'Talking Comedy', a BBC Radio 2 show in which comedians talk about the people that make them laugh. This is the unedited interview, not the programme as broadcast.

John Pidgeon and Alexei Sayle talking [00:25] Alexei Sayle recalls ‘golden age of radio’; listening to Round the Horne, The Goons. Mentions the Navy Lark, [Tony] Hancock on television, ‘I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again’. ‘Round the Horne’: discusses the characters of Julian and Sandy; the subversive nature of programme; speaking polari. Avant-garde. Rambling Syd Rompo. [03:02] Discusses film of [Harry] Secombe and [Peter] Sellers concert at the Albert Hall.
[04:13] Tom Lehrer as an early influence, ‘mild satirical songwriter’, Pete Seeger. Mentions liking Lehrer’s ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’. Lehrer quote ‘gave up satire the day the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Henry Kissinger’ [06:59] Discusses the influence of Robin Williams performing live at various clubs in the early 80s.
[07:58] Bobby Chariot [08:20] ‘Dynamite Chicken’ film, soul music, Stax Records label, Edwin Starr, [08:50] interspersed shots of a young Richard Pryor, Vampire Bat Coming To Harlem/Dracula bit, talks about how references to drugs, sex and swearing was possible in the US so could be in the UK, [09:30] talks about being a descendant of punk poets that succeeded the Sex Pistols, Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Cooper Clarke, [09:49] people who put comedy into their music like Ian Dury and Madness. [09:58] there was a ready audience dissatisfied with the likes of Dick Emery, Les Dawson and The Two Ronnies
[10:25] Pidgeon asks about other comedians who were ‘the antipathy of the comedy establishment’, Sayle discusses opening night of The Comedy Store, Arnold Brown [Woody Allen-esque], Lee Cornes [Japanese impression with funny teeth] and how slow alternative comedies beginnings were. [11:30] Ex-street theatre people begin to get involved, Tony Allen, Keith Allen, Rik [Mayall] & Ade [Edmondson], Pete(r) [Richardson] & Nige(l) [Planer]. [12:55] Pidgeon brings up story of Arnold Brown’s career break, [13:27] Sayle mentions he looked like Charles Aznavour (looked young for someone in his 40s), Arnold Brown went from accountant to writer for ‘Week Ending’, opened for Frank Sinatra and Steven Wright.
[15:03] Robin Williams and Steve Martin, ‘Mork and Mindy’, Robin Williams came to The Comedy Store in 1980 after filming ‘Popeye’ in Malta. [17:10] Williams did an interview in The Sunday Mail saying that Sayle was his favourite comedian. [17:19] Steve Martin, first heard of him through movies like ‘The Jerk’, Saturday Night Live was not shown the UK until cable and video. [18:27] mentions listening to one of his albums, ‘Wild and Crazy Guy’.
[19:28] Albert Brooks, ‘Broadcast News’, ‘Defending Your Life’, ‘True Love/Real Love’ [sic – ‘True Life’] romantic comedy mid-80s [20:29] Sayle’s collaborators Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews (‘Paris’ and ‘Father Ted’) are also fans of Brooks. [20:39] ‘The Last Laugh’ book about American stand-up. [21:48] Victoria Wood. [22:01] Alan Davies, Jeff Green, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand.
[23:01] Bill Connolly & Robin Williams comparison [25:51] Bobcat Goldthwait [26:18] Sayle worked in Hollywood and replaced Bea Arthur in ‘The Golden Girls’, met Bobcat Goldthwait on the show. [27:43] knew him from the Police Academy movies.
[30:07] Steven Wright, mainly discusses most of his influences being American, talks about Wright’s well-crafted gags [32:38] ‘Spinal Tap’, fan of Rob Reiner as a director, including ‘When Harry Met Sally’. [33:28] Not a fan of improv-comedy like Whose Line Is It Anyway, but praises character-improvisation like in Spinal Tap. [34:42] Likes Harry Shearer and his work on The Simpsons. Praises Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Shearer and Reiner as excellent, but laments how they haven’t done anything that surpasses Spinal Tap. [35:25] Jerry Sadowitz, resisted seeing him for years, daring and twisted style of comedy, maybe too strong for mass taste
[38:06] picks miscellaneous writers including Alan Bennett, Kingsley Amis, Michael Bywater [38:39] Evelyn Waugh & Kingsley Amis, reactionary English comic columnist, mix of pathos and humour, acidic social observation.
[40:20] Discussing the recording of the radio trailer for the programme, “Hello I’m Alexei Sayle, writer and actor” etc. [41:35] they listen to a recording of live Arnold Brown routine [42:18] anecdote about Arnold Brown at Paul Raymond Revue Bar. [43:25] they listen to a clip from Spinal Tap’s radio interview with John Pidgeon, [44:23] Sayle discusses thrill of performing as a character. [46:09] listen to a clip from Steve Martin’s “Cat Toys” routine [47:20] discuss it afterwards. [48:20] Clip from live Albert Brooks routine plays [49:22] discussion and the ‘spiralling concept’. [50:00] Clip from live Bobcat Goldthwait routine plays [50:48] discussion about it, less mawkish than Robin Williams routines about fatherhood, and the funny voice Goldthwait affects. [51:22] Clip from live Robin Williams routine plays [52:19] incredibly brief discussion, ‘nothing to say about that’ [52:24] Clip from live Steven Wright routine plays [53:33] discussion about it. [54:13] Clip of Julian and Sandy from Round the Horne plays [55:25] discussion
[56:14] Discussion about other clips they will play, the end of Tom Lehrer ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’, Kingsley Amis rather than Alan Bennett or Noel Coward. [57:20] a few takes of the trail for the programme. [01:01:10] recording stops.
NotesLPCM wave 16 bit 44.1kHz. Digital Audio Tape (DAT) captured using a PC running Windows; SPDIF connection via RME PCI card. Digitisation engineer Adrian Finn, Greatbear analogue & digital media ltd. Digital file topped and tailed.
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsThis recording is available for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU for study/research purposes only. Access to audio-visual recordings is through digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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