Stewart Lee's history of stand-up on TV

Thinking inside the box with the maverick comedian

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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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