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.
See these exclusive shots by acclaimed comedy photographer Idil Sukan ahead of her debut exhibition
We profile this whispering rising star
The jittery TV regular and 27-hour show loon picks his favourite comics
See exclusive photos from this exhibition about the ’80s and ’90s alternative comedy circuit