Jimmy Carr has a famous laugh, but every now and then something will happen that makes him laugh to the point of tears, subsequently bypassing his painful laughter by forcing him to simply stop working and corpse speechless in his chair. Enter Sean Lock, the frequent mastermind behind such reactions, who has tragically died aged 58 due to cancer. Sean’s legendary career, ranging from stand-up to popular panel shows, saw him make more cohorts and audiences laugh than anyone else in the room.
Sean pursued a career in comedy in the early 1990s, steamrolling his way to the upper echelons of the British elite comedians. His stand-up routines skewed towards surrealism (his ‘Madonna’ sketch) and being observational towards British culture. Using a lot of movement and physicality to juxtapose his frequent, almost indefatigable, deadpan delivery of one-liners and scathing black comedy, Sean’s routines pack a hefty punch of energy.
His role as team captain for 8 out of 10 Cats and the superior 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is perhaps what Sean is most loved and remembered for. Compilation videos of his ‘best bits’ from both shows boast millions of views and flicking through the comment sections emphasises just how damn funny people find his work. Sean’s antics range from cringe-inducing (drinking bin juice) to outright gross (the kitty litter challenge), whilst his self-deprecating, moody persona is both a goldmine for jokes and a beautiful trampoline for colleagues and close friends Jimmy Carr and Jon Richardson to bounce off. Episodes without him are still amusing but there is always a feeling something is missing: the comedians aren’t laughing as much at each other’s jokes.
Sean’s iconic use of mascots in Cats Does Countdown includes the ‘Pickpocket of the Year’ award (“I didn’t win it”) and the undisputed greatest children’s book of all time: The Tiger Who Came for a Pint. His occasional pairing with Miles Jupp remains one of the most inspiring panel show decisions as it yields extensive amounts of quotations and howls from laughter from anyone who hears their bickering. Sean’s bizarre comedic routines are quintessentially British in style and delivery. Borderline and ironic with dry delivery and even the occasional pun and ‘dad’ joke, his ability to concoct hilarious images is unmatched (Fearne Cotton at the ‘Rectum of the Year’ awards!).
Many have labelled Sean a “comedian’s comedian” due to his ability to make his peers laugh their dinner off. Such acclaim is sufficiently earned; his original voice and sheer work ethic is commendable. His televised appearances in recent years have seen him acting more contained and stationary, often looking tired and sometimes in pain. His death now paints these appearances with a bittersweet note with the knowledge now known, as it shows a tireless performer who, even in deteriorating health conditions, was still committed to the noblest of professions: making people laugh.
One sequence that sums Sean’s work up comes from Claudia Winkleman who, along with Carr is absolutely driven to tears and near-suffocation by what he says, stutters “you have to stop speaking” so she can compose herself and breathe again. Very few performers, especially comedians, ever receive such a line as a fully fledged compliment, testament to Sean Lock’s status as one of comedy’s greatest. Rest in peace to the undefeated champion of Carrot in a Box.