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.
‘Gas’, ‘Comedy Network’ (1997-98, C4, Paramount)
The twin last gasps of straight stand-up on TV in the twentieth century, then presumed by execs to “not really work”. Endlessly repeated for years on late-night cable under the terms of the acts’ one-payment buy-out deals, and featuring many stars of the future – Noel Fielding, Lee Mack, Peter Kay – the shows typify the time when TV stand-up started to feel like worthless one-size-fits-all filler. Like peasants with free milk we lapped up what they offered us, only to see our virgin sets chopped into differently titled shows, and sliced into 79p audio-only iTunes clips, for eternity.
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