SEAN LOCK 1963 – 2021
(by Bill Bailey)
Sean Michael Lock was born on 22 April 1963 in Chertsey, Surrey on his sister Kate’s sixth birthday. With Irish roots he was schooled by nuns from the Salesian order before his mother died when he was six years old. Not one for formal education, he was always a bit of a dreamer and, according to his brother Pete, ‘the slowest paper boy in Woking’ which is where the family settled in 1972. He had many jobs as well as working on building sites for his Dad where his nickname was Susan. After months wandering around the Cevennes finding gainful employment as a goatherd, Sean worked on a kibbutz and at a PGL holiday camp before returning home to a desk job at the DHSS which didn’t last long. His time as an apprentice plumber was fairly disastrous and equally short lived before he decided to try acting. Which again, didn’t go that well, as he managed to get himself thrown out of the Drama Centre when he couldn’t take ‘the method’ seriously. His early stand up was hilarious, raw, anarchic and sometimes alienating but he had found something he truly loved, and it was in comedy where he found himself in a world where he really belonged.
I met Sean at a gig where we were both performing in the late 80’s and we immediately hit it off. We shared a similar sense of humour, and also a sense of outsider status which gave us an added spur to succeed, but also a determination to have fun while doing it. The fact that we able to make people laugh, and make a living from it, felt like we were on a wild adventure that we didn’t want to end.
His early gigs in clubs where he was learning the craft, were often rowdy affairs where he honed his skill at dealing with the odd drunk heckler, which developed over the years into an effortless ability to riff on whatever subject came up, or with whoever he was sharing a tv stage with.
In 1993 we took a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, which featured a kung-fu master sketch, in which Sean opted to balance fifty pence pieces in his eyes, clamped them in using his eyebrows while at the same time daring me to try to snatch away a shopping trolley he was holding onto. At the time, I didn’t think I would ever laugh as much at anything ever again, but this was early days.
The following year in 1994 we wrote a show called Rock about an old rocker trying to make a comeback with his faithful roadie which we again took to Edinburgh, in a venue where the audience sometimes even reached double figures. One night, we had an audience of one, our fellow comedian Dominic Holland. Sean, who went on first, shouted from the stage to ‘just come out Bill, we’re not doing the show’, so we just took Dominic to the bar and ran him through the show’s highlights over a pint.
His talent for comic writing really hit its stride in Fifteen Minutes of Misery, a series of shows he wrote and starred in for BBC Radio 4. The success of this led to the making of Fifteen Stories High, a tv sitcom he wrote for the BBC. Sean played a downbeat swimming pool attendant, Vince who lived in a tower block, and was convinced his neighbours were up to all sorts of strange behaviour. It was brilliantly, darkly funny and gave full rein to Sean’s finely tuned ear for absurd dialogue, for his comic invention and well-wrought scripts.
During the nineties Sean’s comedy career went from strength to strength culminating in 2000 when he won Best Stand-Up at the British Comedy Awards.
We both put in a lot of miles getting to gigs during this time, our friendship was forged over many late night stops in motorway service stations. By now, his stand-up was really hitting its stride, and often he was the comedian all the other comedians turned out to watch. He had that rare knack of truly great comics to be able to take audiences with him on ever more tortuous and often quite dark routes, yet such was the warmth of his personality and easy manner, that crowds happily followed along and his reputation grew.
When he took on the job of team captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats for Channel 4 it began a new chapter in his career, which led to even greater success, and that, coupled with the 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown spinoff show brought his comedy to a huge audience, and led to him being loved by millions.
He was a superb writer of comedy, a clever and rigorous practitioner of the art, who saw it as something to be crafted, to be treated almost like poetry. His stand-up sets were deliriousN, dizzying journeys down endless rabbit holes, that left you helpless with laughter.
He was as funny off-stage as on. I will remember a kind, generous and loyal friend who I loved dearly, and feel a great sadness at his loss. Away from the world of tv and entertainment, he was a dedicated and loving family man.
He leaves a wife, Anoushka, and their three children, a sister Kate and his brothers Paul and Pete.
He leaves a wonderful comic legacy, and for me and those lucky enough to know him, some cherished memories and unforgettable nights of laughter.