Sean Lock: Comic whose deadpan surrealism made him a TV favourite

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Witty in pink: Lock performing at the Albert Hall in 2009  (Getty)
Witty in pink: Lock performing at the Albert Hall in 2009 (Getty)

With his surreal, deadpan style and a hyperactive imagination, Sean Lock was a master stand-up who became best known for his long stint on TV panel show 8 out of 10 Cats and its sister programme 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown.

Lock, who has died aged 58, once said self-effacingly: “You may know me as that bloke off the telly whose name you can't remember.” Elsewhere, when asked about the secret of comedy, he replied “Spending tedious hours straining over a blank sheet of paper trying to think of something funny. Some days I’d rather try and lay an egg.”

Sean Lock was born in 1963 in Chertsey, Surrey, the youngest of four children of Mary and Sidney Lock, who worked in the building industry. He was educated at St John the Baptist School in Woking. Leaving school in the early Eighties with one A-level, Lock began his working life on building sites, stripping concrete panels.

Alongside his day work, he had tried out stand-up comedy at open mic nights, soon finding his way to a new career. By the end of the Eighties, the popularity of comedy was at a high, with clubs opening across the country. Lock later said “I think the huge success of it confused a lot of people. Comedy is an experience people really enjoy. They go to a show, see a comedian, they have a really good laugh and enjoy their night. Why wouldn’t that be popular?’”

In 1990 he was diagnosed with skin cancer, which he attributed to the amount of time he had spent outside during his labouring work, and recovered following treatment. Making light of the cause, he once said “You could hardly ask a big Irish foreman, 'Please could you rub some Ambre Solaire on my back?'”

He went on to win the British Comedy Award for Best Live Comic in 2000 and had been nominated for the Perrier comedy award the same year at the Edinburgh Fringe for his show No Flatley, I am the Lord of the Dance.

Block party: opposite Pamela Moiseiwitsch in ‘15 Storeys High’ (Alamy)
Block party: opposite Pamela Moiseiwitsch in ‘15 Storeys High’ (Alamy)

In the early 2000s, Lock wrote and appeared in both series of 15 Storeys High, a quirky television sitcom about two men in a London tower block, adapted from an earlier radio show. Lock portrayed Vince Clark, a cynical recluse who takes in a lodger, Errol, played by Benedict Wong. The strikingly original comedy failed to find an audience at the time, but has since become a cult classic.

He found fame in the comedy panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, appearing from 2005 to 2015. When Channel 4 experimented with a special “mash-up” of the show, combining it with Countdown, a new hit was born. Lock went on to appear on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown as a panellist and team captain from 2012 to 2021. One popular spoof saw Lock read from his own fictitious book, The Tiger Who Came for a Pint, a parody of children’s favourite The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

Lock continued to tour widely as a stand-up at the same as recording 8 Out of 10 Cats. His stage tours included Sean Lock Live (2008), Lockipedia (2010), Purple Van Man (2013) and Keeping It Light (2017).

Fellow comedian Eddie Izzard said “He went to places that none of us were thinking of going to, could have gone to, and he did it in this amazingly deadpan Sean Lock kind of way... It’s kind of dark, but it’s wonderfully surreal. So his legacy lives on forever and ever, which is a beautiful thing.”

Away from the small screen, Lock supported Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen, a charity started in 1994 which helps to provide evening meals for homeless people. Martin Stone, who runs the kitchen, said: “He was so lovely, committed and engaging in supporting us. He was kind and a friend, more than just a volunteer, always supporting our community.”

Diagnosed with lung cancer, Lock died at home surrounded by his family. His agents, Off The Kerb, paid tribute, saying: “Sean was one of Britain’s finest comedians, his boundless creativity, lightning wit and the absurdist brilliance of his work, marked him out as a unique voice in British comedy.”

Once when asked by Jimmy Carr what he’d like his obituary to say, he quipped: “I don’t care, I’ll be dead. But ideally I’d like it to say, nooooooo, whyyyyyy, nooooooo, aaaahhh, you can’t write tears, Jimmy...”

Lock was married to Anoushka Nara Giltsoff, who survives him, together with their son and two daughters.

Sean Lock, comedian, born 22 April 1963, died 16 August 2021

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