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Sean Lock and the dangers of canals

Trudie Robinson exclusively interviews Sean Lock ahead of his Lowry gigs this week

Published on December 4th 2007.

Sean Lock and the dangers of canals

You’d have to be quite daft to have not noticed the current popularity of repetition in TV comedy. The running gag is particularly prevalent in the sketch show, often flogged until it’s limping and wheezing at the finish line. The Fast Show was an early offender, then Little Britain grabbed the baton, and others have followed, concentrating on creating a memorable catchphrase rather than genuine humour. Sean Lock thankfully, has never been a follower, “there’s a certain fashion in comedy I think for something that people trust and know and rely on and I don’t really like that.”

I got threatened once on a canal by a mad Cockney but I think he had mental health problems. I think it was just the fact that I caught his eye.

Consequently his almost gritty, high rise sit-com 15 Storeys High was both wonderful and wilful, without a running gag in sight. “I made life much harder for myself, ten times harder for myself but I never repeated any (jokes). I would repeat it twice in a show if a joke grew but not from week to week. I don’t have a major problem with it I just don’t want to do it.” So of course the sit com was only given two series, presumably to leave plenty of BBC funding to make even more series of the God awful Titty Bang Bang.

“I think it suffered from the fact that it was a bit ahead of its time, I’m not blowing smoke up my own arse – I don’t think it’s possible to do that, but I don’t think anyone’s made a show like it since. It’s almost deliberately inaccessible: when you first look at the world it’s so grim and repellent. That’s for me what made it funny in a world that’s normally associated with domestic abuse storylines.”

Though loved by many comedy connoisseurs, it’s not for the sitcom that Lock is best known but rather his appearances on panel shows such as Eight Out of 10 Cats. These are the shows for which he gets accosted by odd Cockney geezers on canal towpaths.

“I got threatened once on a canal by a mad Cockney but I think he had mental health problems. I think it was just the fact that I caught his eye. He recognised me from the television and said, ‘you’re that comedian aren’t you?’, and I foolishly said, ‘oh thanks very much’. Then he said ‘not so fucking funny now are you?’ It was me, him and a canal at ten o’clock in the morning, luckily my phone rang and I said excuse me I’ve got to answer this and walked off. I think he had other issues in life.”

Though fame’s not much of a problem as only the hardcore fans (and a handful of psychotics) tend to recognise him.

“I think you have to be quite distinctive for it to be a problem, if you’re a man wearing a dress obviously that helps, and Bill Bailey, he’s very distinctive. I think I look everyman-ish with glasses, I look quite dull…”

Lock started out on his path to not being recognised very much in the eighties when times were dour and opportunities, for Lock at least, were largely to be found on the building site. “The eighties was quite a grim time in this country I think if you weren’t a yuppie. I worked on building sites mostly, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do, people forget what a different country this was twenty years ago. It was quite a miserable shit hole.”

After a stint at drama college he progressed into comedy and is still performing twenty years later, though his current tour is his first in three years. On that too he’s staying true to his wilful nature as reviews are already suggesting it’s an unpredictable event. And quite right too.

Sean Lock, The Lowry, Wednesday 5, Thursday 6 and Sunday 9 December

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