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.

'Saturday Live' (1985-88, C4)

Blabby Ben Elton shouts over a floodlit sheep-pen of caned casuals, and subtly distances himself from the weird and interesting acts he introduces (such as a brilliant Kevin McAleer with his unequalled owl slide show). Prefiguring the mass modern comedy phenomenon of “failed irony”, Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney scores big with the cash-rich Thatcherites it ridicules.

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