A Sayle-abration of
Adam Ant... Kim Wilde... Bucks Fizz... Kajagoogoo... Miami Vice... Bonnie Tyler... Filofax... Juliet Bravo... Roland Rat... Sloane Rangers... Maggie Thatcher... Haircut 100... Wang Chung... Mr. Mister... and of course Mr. Alexei Sayle!
The 1980s was a wonderful decade for wacky entertainers with distinctive appearances and funny costumes. Some made their impact in music. Others hit the limelight in the "alternative" comedy boom of the early 1980s.
Just as there was an infusion of new pop musicians in the 1980s who were a change from late 1970s punk and new wave - so there was a new breed of comedians who wanted to make a change from what they saw as the boring comedy establishment of Monty Python, Rowan Atkinson and Not The 9 O' Clock News.
Many new "alternative" comedians and comedic actors emerged in the new era, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer (who together became 3/4 of The Young Ones and The Comic Strip), Peter Richardson, Keith Allen (father of Lily Allen), Tony Allen, French & Saunders, Ben Elton...
The first King of "Alternative" Comedy
But the king of them all in the early days was Alexei Sayle - with his two wacky characters - "the angry cockney mod poet" and "the socialist comedian". So skillfully did Alexei portray these caricatures of trendy British society in the 1980s that many people in his audience thought that Alexei actually WAS a cockney poet or a socialist! Not understanding that these were just brilliantly created looney characters like Harry Enfield's "Stavros" and "Loadsamoney".
(In hindsight it's silly that people ever thought that Alexei's comedic characters were who he really was. Imagine that daft socialist character that Alexei pretended to be while on stage - living in a grand mansion like the real Alexei bought in posh Bloomsbury in 1983! Alexei's "socialist comedian" character helped him to make "loadsamoney" out of trendy lefties long before Harry Enfield! No one lived out the 1980s creed of his true political hero Maggie Thatcher - that individuals should grasp hard for personal success - better than Alexei! Looking back on his giddy rise to fame in the go-go go-for-it Thatcher era of Duran Duran and Wham he told the Radio Times in 2007 "I wanted to be famous, I wanted to be seen as exceptional... I found that I could do that by being funny. People who become successful, it's not about the raw talent, it's about that drive." It's a wonder that Maggie didn't give him a knighthood! He certainly earned it!)
Between 1980-1985, before the emergence of newer, more telegenic stars such as Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse, Paul Merton, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimore - Alexei Sayle was the enfant terrible of "alternative" comedy. He made his first national TV breakthrough in 1982 - appearing with one of his showbiz heroes Chris Tarrant on the ground-breaking late-night TV series "OTT". You have to see the clip to understand just how revolutionary his appearance on British TV was at that time!
In 1984, his comedy ditty "Ullo John! Got A New Motor?!" became a surprise hit single and he appeared on Top Of The Pops! alongside some of his favourite popsters including Nik Kershaw, Bananarama, Shakin' Stevens and Rick Springfield! Alexei had truly arrived in showbiz! His novelty song reached number 15 in the hit parade, just one position lower than the peak reached in 1961 by a recording of one of Alexei's early heroes Charlie Drake - "My Boomerang Won't Come Back." What a thrill it must have been for Alexei to be mentioned in the same breath as one of his key influences!
That very same year, he was publicly lauded by Jasper Carrott as being an inspiration. Between following in Charlie Drake's footsteps and inspiring Jasper Carrott - these were things for Alexei to be really proud of!
After The Laughter Died...
Nothing lasts forever of course, and with the next generation of comedians snipping at his heels and all landing major TV series - the limelight inevitably slipped away from Alexei. He tried his hand at acting and had cameos in a few edgy films (playing Arab caricatures in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Carry on Columbus") and cutting-edge sitcoms (including "The Lenny Henry Show" and "Roland Rat: The Series"). In 1992 with his career on the slide in England, he tried going mainstream to Hollywood and signed a 7-year contract to appear in "Golden Palace" - the spin-off series from "The Golden Girls" - but he was sacked after just two weeks filming because of his arguments with the stars of the show: Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty. They scrapped his episodes and he was replaced by Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame. Alexei may have been fired - ending his attempt to climb the American showbiz ladder - but he got his own back with one of his trademark witty zingers: "Those old ladies are horrible!"
The writing was on the wall for Alexei - but much to his credit, after the laughs dried up, Alexei Sayle retired from comedy and became a novelist and narrator of documentaries and "intellectual" programmes for Channel Four and BBC-2. Not for him the indignity of still trying to be funny when the muse and public has deserted. He continued to do impressions though. Famed for his memorable Benito Mussolini impression in the 1980s in later years he added creditable impersonations of Oswald Mosely and Julius Streicher to his repertoire.
Mother Nature wasn't too kind to our hero as time went by - and Alexei went totally bald and grew a beard - looking more like famous Observer columnist Alan Brien than the cutting-edge comedy giant he once was. And sadly, he was no longer able to fit into his trademark mohair suit.
While it is certainly true that many comedians who emerged in the latter half of the 1980s and the 1990s and beyond eclipsed Alexei Sayle - where would they have been if Alexei Sayle hadn't blazed the trail for them? Eddie Izzard... Phil Cool... Phil Jupitus... Frank Skinner... Russell Brand... All of them owe a huge debt to Alexei.
So this website is dedicated to the golden yesteryears of the Eighties.... The Brief Shining Moment when the gods gave Alexei Sayle a talent to make us all laugh.
In the future we will be adding more pages. Information, rare photos and examples of the wacky quips and punchlines that made Alexei the funniest man in Britain for those brief but wonderful years.
If you have memories of how Alexei was able to make you laugh - so that we can share them with others on our forthcoming fan page "Everything For Sayle!"
And for true diehard fans - the "Saylers" in our midst - we say "Hello Sayler"!
We'll keep you posted with exciting news for all "Saylers"!
So here's to Alexei Sayle! One of the funniest "alternative" comedians in Britain in the 1980s!