The poignant labour of love that was Alexei Sayle’s chronicle of his unusual childhood, Stalin Ate My Homework, begged for a sequel, and follow-up Thatcher Stole My Trousers takes up his story at Chelsea School of Art in the early 1970s. The amused bafflement at the antics of his Palestinian flatmate – whose Marxist revolutionary group earns them a visit from Special Branch – gives way to Sayle entertaining punters at the nascent Comedy Store, and scaring Edinburgh crowds by furiously swearing at them as a cockney mod poet. “Not exactly a ‘character’, more a demonic possession,” he remembers.
There’s interesting – if not essential – social history here as comedy and politics come together in the late 1970s and his work with the Comic Strip and The Young Ones takes centre stage. It’s fascinating to watch Sayle battle with his principles: initially, he wins all the plaudits but the proximity to showbusiness stardom bothers him (except if it’s Sting). But then, that’s Sayle writ large – an outsider gatecrashing the mainstream whom we loved to hear swear on the TV.