Friday, 20 November 2020

Ullo John Gotta New Motor

 Alexei Sayle was the first compere at The Comedy Store in 1979 showcasing his own brand of politically aware, surreal flights, and often highly controversial and audience baiting Comedy.
Looking at early footage, it is a surprise that he was never physically attacked (only heckled, which he could bat away without a moments thought).
One of his early political jokes is proof that political comedy doesn't always age, bring as relevant now as it was 40 years ago:

"If you travel to the States ... they have a lot of different words than like what we use. For instance: they say 'elevator', we say 'lift'; they say 'drapes', we say 'curtains'; they say 'President', we say 'seriously deranged git!'"

The other big Alternative Comedy venue in London was The Comic Strip, and Alexei switched sides becoming a core member fot 2 distinct TV outings - Channel 4s The Comic Strip Presents ... and BBC2s The Young Ones.
In The Young Ones, he was ostensibly the landlord Jerzei Balowski but also many members of the Balowski family, a deranged criminal madman called Brian Damage, Benito Mussolini, a Vampire, and the lead singer of a band whose only song is about the joys of Doctor Martens Boots.
He may have only had 5 minutes solo per show, but he made it count by breaking character, breaking the fourth wall, and generally coming up with some particularly daft monologues.

Alongside the Scouse Communist shtick (where he stated his full name was: Alexei Yuri Gagarin Siege of Stalingrad Glorious Five Year Plan Sputnik Tractor Moscow Dynamo Back Four Sayle) he also wrote and performed a Detective Mystery Radio Play (set in Milton Springsteen Newtown) called The Fish People.

And it was from The Fish People (although largely unrelated) that came his Pop Star moment.
He took his base stage character - short fat bloke, tonic suit, and pork pie hat - gave the character a South London accent, and after fronting a BBC documentary about the Ford Cortina, he wrote, recorded and unleashed "Ullo John Gotta New Motor" - part funk, part rap, part surreal nonsense.  The base track was extended over 4 parts, each the same but different enough, and culminating in Part 4 which is basically a revisit of an earlier character - Mr Sweary.  The final part doesn't really have lyrics, just a litany of profanity.  It's not big, it's not clever, but it is strangely funny (think Derek and Clive set to a dinstinctly 80s Studio beat).

And that was it - he'd had his moment on Top Of  The Pops, and "Ullo John" will remain a mainstay on cheap Novelty music compilations, he chose to return to Comedy and made his first appearance with The Comic Strip Presents ... in the film film Supergrass (playing a rather deranged ballet dancing motorcycle cop).
But it was not all comedy as he also landed some small parts in straight films (he's even in Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (briefly)).

But he returned to stand-up comedy - although in a slightly lighter vain - with three series of Alexei Sayle's Stuff and The All New Alexei Sayle Show on BBC2.  The series mixed character comedy (Bobby Chariot - "Ow ya diddling? Bloody sod ya then!", the Feminists who own a bike shop called Menstrual Cycles) with Alexei's exasperation and rumination on life as he sees it all delivered in a high-brow yet anarchically subversive tone - he steered clear of "deep" politics, but couldn't resist chucking the odd jibe in.

And then came another career change - now he's a novelist, a newspaper columnist, and a general know it all who might get the call for a Talking Heads TV slot if Stephen Fry is unavailable.

But as the theme song to Stuff asked: "Who is that fat bastard?"
He's the bloke who's on the lookout for a new set of wheels whilst wondering is there is life in Peckham?


  1. And he did the joke about Mussolini impersonating George Formby - "I'm hanging from a lamp post at the corner of the street..."

  2. He keeps tropical fish in his underpants