Looking for a Ranting Fat Man in a Tight Suit? You Got It!
Alexi Sayle's style is extremely political, and if you listen to his audio-book of early comedy club recordings, you'll hear the prototypes for many of the gags which appear in Stuff. Marshall & Renwick have a distinctly different style - they came from the world of radio comedy - "The Burkis Way to Dynamic Living" was one of theirs (that mutated into a short-lived TV version on ITV with the same cast, but it was too surreal to last on the low-brow ITV). They also wrote the extremely funny "Whoops, Apocalypse!" (the TV version), and the famous "One Foot In the Grave". They also spoofed Lord of the Rings in the year that the epic BBC Radio 4 production aired, with "Hordes of the Things", a wickedly observed lampoon with first rate cast and writing. This is a very strong pedigree.
If you want to "spot" which is Marshall and Renwick, and which is Sayle, it isn't hard to do. The more Pythonesque it gets, the less likely it is to be Sayle, and the more political it is, the more likely it is him.
If you want some great examples of sketches which other reviewers haven't mentioned, I'd put the extended sketch/concept episode "Seal of the Soothsayer" as one of my favourites. The Mickey Mouse/Steamboat Fatty spoof is also priceless. One of my personal favourites is the "Who's a Jew?" sketch, where a businessman discovers that not only is HE Jewish, but so is Thomas the Tank Engine (original name: Thomasovitch Tankenstein)! The School Outfitter sketch rings true to anybody buying school uniform, even today. There are so many treasures in this series that it is a crime to be selective. I am glad that the BBC have finally allowed/negotiated rights/whatever to get this out on DVD in the UK - the whole series as opposed to the original compilation shown on the title page for this entry.
The "All New Alexi Sayle Show" appeared after a few years off, and Alexi had mellowed - no more ranting, but it just felt that he had lost his sharp comic edge. Most of the material revolved around perhaps 6 characters whom you would see in every episode in the same predictable order (Harry Enfield fell into the same trap, as does "Little Britain" today), and if the joke wasn't really funny once, it certainly wasn't funny twice, or six times, and when the series ended, I recycled the VHS recordings I'd made from the TV immediately rather than saving them. Stick to "Stuff", and you're in safer, if stranger territory, and it's much funnier there.
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