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Alexei Sayle on being heckled by his 96-year-old mother
Having your 96-year-old, wheelchair-bound mother scream “Lies, lies. It’s all lies“, at a book reading of your childhood memoirs might bother some people.
Not Alexei Sayle.
“I’m used to it,“ says the comedian turned writer, who will be sharing extracts from that very book, Stalin Ate My Homework, at Jacksons Lane this month. It chronicles how growing up with communist parents affected him.
“We were half Jewish, atheist, communists and spent Christmas shouting at the Queen’s speech,“ says the Bloomsbury resident.
“My dad worked on the railway, so we started travelling to eastern Europe when I was seven and spent summers in places like Czechoslovakia when the iron curtain was still firmly up. It was weird, but different. I knew it was different.
“I both sort of believed it and thought it was completely insane at the same time."
His mother passed away last year and the 61-year-old says these days he attracts much less heckling and has mellowed considerably.
“I was very ambitious when I was younger and had that terrible desire to be famous and successful.
“That has now gone and I just want to do the work.“
Last year he returned to stand-up after a 17-year hiatus and smashed through 90 shows which “went well“, but he “doesn’t know what to do with it now“ and so has gone back to writing.
He is now working on a second book of memoirs, dealing with his early dareer as the first MC at The Comedy Store and starring in The Young Ones with Rik Mayall, and, instead of a tirade from his now dearly departed mother, his Highgate show will include exclusive extracts from it.
But he is keeping tight-lipped about what tales he has up his sleeve.
“I don’t know what the stories will be yet. Hopefully they will be funny and interesting.
“I didn’t keep diaries, I guess I just remember stuff, although I’m sure loads of it is completely wrong.
“When I did the first book there was about a year that was missing and another bit where I have a really clear memory of stuff that happened in Amsterdam. But then I saw the bloke I was hitchhiking with and he said we only got to Antwerp.“
A a large portion of the show will be about his first book.
“One of the things the book is about is struggling with the idea my parents were really good, kind people who wanted a better world and ended up turning a blind eye to two of the worst mass murderers of our time, Stalin and Mao.“
Alexei also struggled to find his identity as a young comedian and says the “guy in the tight suit“ that became a household name “wasn’t really me“.
These days he spends his time cycling round London and writing his column for Telegraph Motoring, as well as working on his book.
So does he agree in the old adage “you get better with age“?
“No. I think you have to work really hard at it. If you don’t watch it you’re in danger of becoming crotchety and reactionary.“
But the Liverpudlian-born former pupil of Chelsea College of Art and Design says getting older does have some advantages as he has recently been asked to star in one of television’s biggest shows.
“Game of Thrones is full of old bearded men and they have asked me to audition for a couple of parts, but I have never been able to do it. I’m a big fan though so maybe one day.“
Watch this space.
Jacksons Lane, Archway Road, Highgate, Tuesday, February 25, 8pm. Details: 020 8341 4421, jacksonslane.org.uk