It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe Sean Lock – who has died aged the age of 58 – as a linchpin of British comedy. With his unassuming presence, you underestimated his quick wit and ability to spin off into the realms of comic surrealism at your peril. Fashioned in the white heat of the thriving ’90s comedy scene, his presence on panel shows was always guaranteed to bump the quality up a few notches, and cult favourite BBC sitcom 15 Storeys High encapsulated his absurd yet gritty comedy perfectly. Here are just a few of his best moments.
When he had no time for child actors
If we’re honest, all Christmas goodwill aside, the bit in Big Fat Quiz where the children act out a famous event is pretty torturous… like going to a nativity play and nodding along politely while ‘Star of Wonder’ is murdered for the thousandth time. It fell to Sean Lock, embracing his unapologetically curmudgeonly side, to point this out – and tap into that bit between agreement and shame which made the fellow panellists cry with laughter.
Playing ‘Would you rather?’ in 15 Storeys High
You will find quite a few 15 Storeys High clips here. A criminally under-watched sitcom from BBC Three’s brilliant experimental phase, it follows cynical loner Vince Clark, played by Lock, and wide-eyed student Erol Spears, played by Benedict Wong, sharing a bleak flat in a tower block, and dipping in and out of the minutiae of their neighbours’ lives in disturbing and surreal ways.
Ladders in space on QI
Up to about a minute into this, it’s all very reliably QI – an obtuse question and humorous exchanges with varying degrees of convivial laughter. When Lock is allowed to spin off into his own “bubble” about half-way through, however, his surreal yet glib brilliance really starts to kick in, with an excellent classic gag as pay-off, highlighting his quick comic brain, and showing he was never above a good pun.
Beloved fable The Tiger Who Came For a Pint
There are only a few people who could get away with taking a much-loved children’s classic and doing terrible, terrible things to it. Adding his own sprinkling of darkness and light psychosis which goes way beyond a Grimm fairy tale, it’s Lock’s deadpanning which truly makes the hilarity flow, and then keep flowing. No one else could say “then he ate the meat raffle” and somehow make it funny.
Sean Lock's bedtime story is guaranteed to give your kids nightmares
Posted by 8 Out of 10 Cats on Monday, November 27, 2017
‘Carrot in a Box’ from 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown
There are some historic rivalries: Ali and Fraser, the Montagues and Capulets, Boris Johnson and common sense, but surely the simmering tug-of-war between Lock and 8 Out of Ten Cats Does Countdown rival Jon Richardson deserves to be added to this prestigious list. One of the high points of the show, you will applaud from your chair at the conclusion of ‘Carrot in a Box’.
Bargaining with the pool kids in 15 Storeys High
Lock’s sense of humour is the DNA of this show – an everyman sensibility mixed with dreamlike flights of fancy somehow spliced into the real world. This particular scene is a prime example, where Vince is attempting to convince a gang of youths to stop terrorising him. However, the twist lies not only in some of his bargaining tools, but the absurd touches given to some of the gang members characteristics.
‘Rectum of the Year’ with Diego Maradona
“Rear of the Year with the gloves off.” The substitution of a single word, and then building on that idea – this very short “bit” from Lock shows you everything you need to know about his comic brilliance. The glib delivery, the dark twist, the way he tells the story as if he’s told it one hundred times before, and how everyone around him is reduced to tears of laughter.
Rear of the year with the gloves off…
Posted by Sean Lock Memes on Saturday, April 13, 2019
“I didn’t steal it, I just removed it from the pub”
Vince’s sociopathic tendencies and Lock’s curmudgeonly and Machiavellian side (as exhibited in ‘Carrot in a Box’) come to the fore in this fantastic two-hander. Co-written with Mark Lamarr and Mark Trenaman, the mundane depressing setting of 15 Storeys High made an excellent stage for ridiculous situations, such as here, where Lock’s character refuses to accept the definition of stealing, though he’s clearly in the wrong… he’s stolen a plough.
Making plans for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral
Not one to nod along in front of the camera just because everyone else was, Lock always shared his true opinions. See some panellists visibly and deliciously wince as he expounds on the very dead former prime minister in graphic detail. In a later episode, he wasn’t exactly shy about his feelings about her in front of her daughter Carol either.
His dream (and utterly perfect) obituary
A typically ‘him’ response to a well-worn question, taking the remit and turning it on its head with a reliably understated delivery. We are begging one of the papers who carry the story of Lock’s untimely death in tomorrow’s editions to run this obituary, word for word, without any context whatsoever. It would be the most fitting thing any of them could do to pay tribute to him – one final deadpan punchline.