Stewart Lee's history of stand-up on TV

Thinking inside the box with the maverick comedian

Iconoclast comedian Stewart Lee knows TV's delicate relationship with live comedy better than anyone. Ahead of his Comedy Central series showcasing leftfield comics he outlines the history of stand-up on television…

Picture credit: Steve Ullathorne.

‘Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club’ (1974-77, Granada)

In a convincing studio mock-up of the sort of working men’s club already dying out, fag smoke rises and Watneys flows as Bernard Manning and the Frank Skinner-faced Colin Crompton introduce fruity variety, terrible ’70s pop and sometimes unexpectedly palatable pre-alternative stand-ups: Cannon & Ball’s debut is stunning comedy theatre. The usual racist and sexist shit aside, visually and aesthetically this remains a high point of TV stand-up, which I rip off.

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