18 The List 14-27 January 1994

‘I’m trying to live my life in reverse, becoming more optimistic and stupoid as I get older.’

Self-proclaimed fat bastard, and master of every accent as long as it’s Scouse, ALEXEI SAYLE looks forward to the year when he really breaks big. Andrew Pulver ain’t arguing.

lexei Sayle has a secret. Raised on the image of this glamorous icon of stage and screen as a practically hairless figure struggling to stay inside a beaten-up two-piece suit, it’s a shock find out that away from the mad whirl of showbiz, Alexei Sayle has got a beard. ‘lt’s so I can move amongst my people in disguise,’ he mutters shyly. ‘lt’s like Henry V on the eve of Agincourt I can listen to the common people. When 1 work I shave it off Mr Stupid comes out when he’s called for. It’s a living reproach to my agent as well: if it gets too long, I can say look, I haven’t worked for Santa Claus length.’

Not that unemployment is a problem on the immediate horizon. The All-New Alexei Sayle Show (BBC2, Thursdays) is a six-part series that breaks new ground for the hard man of alternative comedy and, while it doesn’t witness him turning into a southern softie, is a little easier on the ears than has previously been the case. ‘I suppose it’s a question of technique,’ he muses. ‘My delivery in the monologues is more relaxed now, it’s more pointed. Obviously there’s no audience there when you’re recording for TV there’s cows sometimes if you’re in a field so it’s more intimate. None of that material has been done on stage, it’s written specifically for the camera.’

But he’ll have no truck with any mention of the mellowing word. ‘My technique has mutated slightly, that’s all. As you get older, mellowing is one of the things that’s supposed to happen to you so I’m fighting against it. I’m trying to live my life in reverse, becoming more optimistic and stupid as I get older. I haven’t found any difficulty finding subject matter: the world changes and hopefully I adapt to that. But despite my efforts this is the fourth series - injustice and persecution hasn’t died out. I don’t know why . . . give me a couple of years and we will be living in a socialist paradise. Everybody’ll wear togas.’

The new emphasis in Sayle’s style is, clearly, his concentration on a raft of characters that form the central material for the laughs. Useless comedian Bobby Chan'ot, trilling chanteuse Edith Piaf and besuited performance artists Egbert and Bill are but a few of the creations that provide a measure of continuity within the mayhem. ‘If you’ve ever been to a Light Entertainment recording,’ Alexei explains. ‘you’ll have met Bobby Chariot: he looks like Ken Dodd but he hasn’t got as much money. All those straight comics are an extraordinary mass of psychoses, especially if they’re unsuccessful. They’re tragic figures: they have no self- awareness, they really do sleep in their Jags when they’re doing gigs. They’re dinosaurs. they should have all died in the war. Come. friendly bombs, fall on Stan Boardman, sort of thing.’