Sayle also taps a previously unrecognised talent for political mimicry. as he launches into the odd sideswipe at Labour leader John Smith. ‘lt was disturbing my wife noticed in bed I looked like him. I wasjust reading with glasses on. and the similarity was disturbing to me. It’s an unfortunate coincidence. but if you’re a comic you turn anything to your advantage. even this hideous facial disfigurement. My wife was as horrified as me. so we’re attending counselling: it’s a group for people who look like appalling world leaders . . .‘ There’s also an immaculately filmed pastiche of Aussie soaps in the form of a regular sketch called Psycho Ward Eleven. and featuring Peter O’Brien (Shane out of Neighbours) as hunky young Doctor Jordan.

Sayle has risked being eclipsed by the new wave of post-alternative comics. who have achieved the stellar success that pioneers tend to miss out on. But he’s happy to learn. and continue developing his own act: ‘Yes. I admire what. for example. Harry Enfield did. finding several characters that embedded themselves in public consciousness. I think that’s not something l’m particularly gifted in I mean. all mine are Scousers really. with my fantastic range of voices which goes all the way from North Liverpool to South Liverpool. I can’t inhabit characters in the same way as he does. But he wasn’t the first by any means it’s just another aspect of comedy. and any similarity with Gilbert and George is purely in the law courts.’

It’s all a far cry from Sayle’s early days. when

‘It was disturbing - I wasjust reading in bed with my glasses on and my wife noticed I look like John Smith. But if you’re a comic you turn anything to your advantage, even this hideous facial disfigurement.’

the manic Liverpudlian compered at the Comedy Store and bemused TV viewers with surreal interludes on The Young Ones. But certain essentials remain like the bulging suit, skinhead crop. and a predilection for coronary- inducing dancing. ‘ln the past I think we were more interested in being experimental and pissing the viewer off, really; when I suddenly thought why do I do this, why not be nice to them? So we wrote characters that they will hopefully fall in love with, and become their TV friends who live in the box. And l‘ve got some dancers now who are very loveable the Alexei’s Angels will be going on tour. I might get a panto. or a summer season out of it yes. I think I’ll crack it this year.’ CI

The All-New Alexei Saer Show is on BBC 2 on Thm'sdays at 9pm.

Trilling chanteuse Edith Piaf (far left) and besuited performance artists Egbert and Bill (above) are but a few of the creations that provide a measure of continuity within the mayhem. Bobby Chaviot (below), meanwhile, is the useless wann-up man: looks like Ken nodd - without the money.

The List l4-27 January I994 17