Some of the best years of my life were in the first half of the 1980s. Although I didn’t notice much at the time, in this post-punk era there were huge social and political changes afoot. In some ways Alexei Sayle was an embodiment of a quiet revolution. From his energetic TV politically themed stand up performances to his pivotal role in The Young Ones he was an enlightening and refreshing change from the hackneyed comedians who dominated the 1970s.
Thatcher Stole My Trousers is about Alexei Sayle’s journey from 1950s Liverpool to the fame he found in London in the 1980s. Whilst the autobiography acknowledges the TV career, it is in the main about the people and experiences which led him there. The book skilfully weaves together the numerous threads of his life. Alexei’s humour shines through with amusing anecdotes appearing at regular intervals through the book.
Sometimes we assume that successful performers have been working at it from a young age. This is not the case with Alexei. His political views are well known and the book acknowledges his committed associations with various communist groups. The first of these were through his parents. His formative educational years were spent as an art student at Southport College. This was followed by Chelsea College of Art and Design. None of these would suggest a successful career as a comedic performer. Yet from his first steps at the Comedy Store in 1979 he has had brilliant career in comedy. Alexei is clearly a great communicator, performer and a natural comedian. Was this from the well-known Liverpudlian gene? I had also forgotten his top-twenty chart hit with “Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?” He also had a number of roles in films such as Gorky Park.
There is a great deal of honesty within the text and he seems open to sharing stories where he can only be described as a complete and utter prat. He is equally honest about his personal relationships and how they formed his life. This is particularly true of both his mother Molly and his wife Linda.
Is this the best writing you will see? Probably not, but it does not offend either. However, for anyone who lived through the 1980s it is a fascinating read. In the end I was both informed and entertained by the book.
About the reviewer
Robb Doyle currently teaches Product Design Engineering at Loughborough University with over 35 years experience. He is also a keen amateur photographer, having won several awards. He works as part of The Bradgate Park Trust, in both the photography voluntary team and the education voluntary team.