George Bass 15/05/2007
SEAN LOCK, the sardonic ex-bricky whose fixtures on flagship quizshows 8 Out Of 10 Cats and QI see him frequently outquipping the likes of Jimmy Carr and Stephen Fry, is fast becoming a frontrunner for most stealthy comedic talent in the UK today. As a writer and actor he put together the best sitcom you've probably never heard of - the critically revered but appallingly promoted 15 Storeys High - and as a veteran stand-up and panel show dial-a-guest, his punchline pyrotechnics are more prolific than a conveyor-belt oiler in a sushi bistro. With a new series of 8 Out Of 10 Cats just about to pop through the hatch and the BBC having finally given 15 Storeys High a 2-disc DVD release, he took time to answer nine questions about demoralisation, dedication and DeWalt.
15 Storeys High garnered high praise for its originality from a who's who of journos - Armando Iannucci one of the loudest voices among them - and was billed in one review as "Spaced for people who've got a job". What films/music/books inspired you to fictionalise your real-life observations in such a stark way?
There were a number of influences in the look of 15 Storeys. The most significant is a Swedish film called 'Songs From The Second Floor' directed by Roy Anderson. It is a beautiful, disturbing and dry vision of our near future, and has a strange neon bleakness which the Scandinavians specialise in. Also 'Stranger Than Paradise' by Jim Jarmusch - a very funny film about boredom and materialism. Both of these have a demanding pace. They are slow, dry and poetic and they force an audience to either submit or reject it.
Other influences would be short film makers like my good friend Andrew Kotting whose work has influenced just about every advert and documentary you see today. Also Jamie Thraves for 'The Low Down' and 'Hackney Downs'. Funny, startling unique little films they have stayed with me since I saw them.
I was lucky I chose a director, Mark Nunneley, who understood exactly what I wanted and he did it brilliantly. The scripts themselves were written with Seinfeldand Father Tedin mind. My two favourite sitcoms.
Describe, using diagrams where appropriate, the likelihood of a third outing getting made. Ricky Gervais seems to have given the Beeb a taste for the one-off special as a means of closure for a sitcom... what are the chances we'll get to see Vince falling in love with a blind date or Errol getting off with Martin Freeman?
No chance; the BBC made that clear to me. There's more chance of Jade Goody winning a MOBO.
Which of the following rumours is more true:
a) As a kid you ate your breakfast whilst sat on the toilet
b) You're writing a film about darts
The first is one of those odd coincidences where once in your life you eat your breakfast on the toilet and your brother walks past, sees you, remembers and waits till you have a small degree of success and uses it to embarrass you. I was asked to write a script about darts... I did, they paid me, the end. No film about darts on the horizon, but one good thing came out of it: I don't like darts anymore.
Did being a builder have a big influence on the material you come up with as a comic? After a gig, do the venue staff find the porn mags you've hidden under the floorboards when they get the place serviced? A sparks I used to work with told me how, as part of his apprenticeship, some subbies bundled him into the lift of the Daily Mirror building with his pants pulled down and his hands zip-tied to his ankles, then sent him hurtling towards reception with a pit-stop on every floor along the way. Beat that.
Working on a site gives you a thick skin. My nickname on one job was "Susan", just because I fell over when we were pouring concrete and had to be helped up as I was covered from head to toe. From then on, everyone on the job - it was a huge office block in Woking - called me Susan. One day I walked into work and the whole canteen (about seventy men) were banging their tea mugs on the table and singing [/i]'If you knew Susie like I knew Susie/Whoa whoa whoa/ What a girl'. [i]They just wanted me to crack and I did. I said 'Stop calling me Susan!' and I've never seen seventy men laugh so hard for so long.
TV Heaven, Telly Hell, the Deal Or No Deal for telly addicts, is up for a new run in the summer. The first series saw you sparring with the likes of Bill Bailey, Johnny Vaughn and Nick Hancock about their life in front of the box. Who've you got to reminisce for us this time?
A new series of TV Heavengoes out in July and the guests are Lee Mack, Alan Carr, Jack Dee, Jimmy Carr, Omid Djalili and Ronni Ancona. Watch out for new title sequence - I'm very proud of it.
There seems to be precious little information about you on the web, and boning up on anything bar the basics of your CV thusfar is like looking for the chalk on a pub pool table. Seeing as chinwagging on the internet boasts more message boards than a stroll down Oxford Street, are you the bloke with his leg slung round a sales placard, wired up to a Walkman and eyes buried in a paperback?
I think we all know too much about each other these days. But if you want to know more, read my autobiography: Cock-Hungry Sluts Go Muff Diving.
Norway, Australia, Warwick... your stand-up's certainly help keep the dust off your passport over the years. How does the downbeat surrealism of your act fare in sunnier climes?
I go down okay, but my home crowd is the one that gets me. I've struggled in Ireland and Australia and you have to face the truth: they are different to us (possibly a little bit weird). We assume because we share a language we have great similarities but that's deceptive. I've got more in common with an Afghan goatherder than I have with most Yanks. The Aussies are strange; I like them but they've got this inferiority complex. They want you to be nice to them 'cos you're in their country.
You crop up on a lot of different quiz shows, and must've traded insults with half of Equity by now. Anyone you're eagre to work with in the future? Anyone you'd dive in a cab to avoid?
I love it when Vic Reeves comes on 8/10 Cats, and QI is always a pleasure. I'm not going to slag anyone off, mainly because the majority of comics are delightful. There are some arseholes, though, and I hope they know who they are and change their ways.
The first Sean Lock Live tour in four years is kicking off this autumn. Any plans to visit the Gulbenkian in sunny Canterbury? I've only been to a theatre once before, and that was to watch Jack And The Bean Stalk when it came to Wanstead. I hope twenty years of piracy and podcasts hasn't lead to an inflation on the Choc Ice mark-up.
Thank you for the opportunity to plug my autumn tour! I've written loads of new material - come and see it. Dates to be announced soon. Good at publicity, aren't I? If Russel Brand and Eddy Izzard are PR geniuses, I must be the world's first PR moron. My unique selling point: man with head and limbs does comedy.
8 Out Of 10 Cats is scheduled to return to Channel 4 on Friday 1st June. At the end of every episode, the titles will get letterboxed to one side and the continuity announcer will start plugging a compendium DVD or some Jimmy Carr stand-up. Ignore him. Instead, read this bit out loud in a Geordie accent: 'And you might be interested to know that both series of Sean Lock's 15 Storeys Highare avaliable to buy now on DVD from all major stockists. Coming up next, there's naughtiness guaranteed when David Walliams joins Alan and Justin for The Friday Night Project. Don't go away.'