Blogtor Who takes a look at one of this week’s Doctor Who guest stars, Lee Mack, who plays Dan Cooper in Kerblam!.
With over a decade’s worth of appearances on our screens – and even longer on stages around the country – comic writer and performer Lee Mack has firmly established himself as a household name with his sharp gags and incredibly quick wit.
Mack was born in Southport, Lancashire in 1968 as Lee McKillop. On leaving school he tried his hand at a variety of jobs, including stableboy – where he once rode Grand National winner Red Rum – working in a bingo hall, and as a Bluecoat at Pontins. He started performing stand-up comedy whilst studying for a degree in Drama with Film and TV studies at Brunel University, an institution that would later award him with an honorary doctorate for the contribution he has made to the arts throughout his hugely successful comedy career.
Read on to check out just some of Mack’s many career highlights!
Not Going Out
Created by Mack, Not Going Out is currently the longest-running sitcom on British television. As well as writing for the BBC comedy, Mack has also starred in every episode to date as Lee. The show started life in 2006 as a will-they-won’t-they flatshare comedy, with layabout Lee’s original landlady/love interest Kate (Megan Dodds) replaced by Sally Bretton’s Lucy for the second series onwards.
For its eighth series, Not Going Out engaged in some time-travelling shenanigans of its own, jumping seven years into the future to show how Lee and Lucy – who got married at the end of the seventh series – cope as parents to three young children. The ninth series aired for the first time earlier this year on BBC One, with the channel currently reshowing the series on Friday nights.
In an era of comedy where traditional studio-based sitcoms were thought to be on the way out, Not Going Out‘s high gag rate and well-crafted plots have made it a hit with viewers. The show’s critical and commercial success is further backed up by some impressive accolades, including a Royal Television Society breakthrough award and a prestigious international Rose d’Or for Best Sitcom.
Would I Lie To You?
Mack is also well-known as a team captain on the BBC comedy panel show Would I Lie To You?. The bluffing game sees contestants take turns to relate bizarre anecdotes, with the opposing team scoring points by correctly determining whether each story is true or a lie.
First airing in 2007, Would I Lie To You? has featured Mack and opposing team captain David Mitchell throughout its entire run; its current regular line up was completed when host Rob Brydon took over from Angus Deayton in 2009.
Now in its twelfth series – which is currently mid-way through its run on BBC One – Would I Lie To You? has garnered three British Comedy Awards for Best British TV Panel Show, as well as being a three-time nominee at the television BAFTAs.
Further TV Projects
One of Mack’s earliest televised comedy shows was ITV’s The Sketch Show, which aired from 2001-2004. The series started life at the Edinburgh Fringe, with original cast member and writer Mack joining fellow comedians Tim Vine, Jim Tavare, Karen Taylor and Ronni Ancona for the televised version. The BAFTA-winning series earned Mack a British Comedy Award nomination for Best Newcomer, and went on to be remade in the US with Kelsey Grammer, with Mack the only UK cast member to take part.
However, it was as a host that he first kicked off his TV career; the Channel 4 stand-up show Gas in the late 90s showcased some of the standout acts from the comedy circuit. He has since hosted the final series of sports panel show They Think It’s All Over and his own entertainment show, Lee Mack’s All Star Cast, as well as guest hosted episodes of Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
His most recent and regular hosting gig has been fronting Sky One’s Duck Quacks Don’t Echo. Each episode Mack is joined by a panel of three celebrity guests who, along with a team of experts, put a series of fascinating scientific facts to the test. Six series of Duck Quacks Don’t Echo have aired to date, with its most recent run of episodes ending last year.
As well as hosting, Mack has also guested on some of the country’s biggest comedy shows, including several appearances as guest captain on Channel 4 mash-up 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown. He’s also popped up on shows like TV Heaven Telly Hell, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled, Room 101, Travel Man and QI, which saw him get in some good-natured jibes at former Doctor David Tennant:
A rare role in drama for Mack saw him appear as a version of himself in Channel 4’s National Treasure. Inspired by Operation Yewtree, the acclaimed 2016 miniseries starred Robbie Coltrane as the fictional Paul Finchley, a television comedian facing accusations of historical abuse.
Earlier this year, Mack traced his family tree as part of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?. The show saw him explore the life of his great-grandfather Billy Mac, a variety hall entertainer from whom Mack chose his own stage name:
Mack’s interest in comedy started at a young age, when he would entertain his schoolmates by doing impressions of fellow Northerner Bobby Ball, who would later go on to play Lee’s dad Frank in Mack’s sitcom Not Going Out. Although he got his first taste of performing comedy professionally during his time as a Pontins Bluecoat, it was Mack’s time at university, where he ran comedy nights as part of his degree, that inspired him to write and perform stand-up himself.
In 1995, eighteen months after his first open mic slot, Mack won the So You Think You’re Funny new act competition at the Edinburgh Fringe. He returned to the festival in successive years following his win, in 1996 with the ensemble show Gagging For It, and the following year with his own solo show Return of the Mack.
In 1999 he teamed up with Dan Antopolski and Catherine Tate – who would later go on to play Doctor Who companion Donna Noble – for the Fringe sketch show Lee Mack’s Bits, the precursor to his television series The Sketch Show. Mack would later go on to work with Tate again on the pilot of his sitcom Not Going Out as well as a less successful pilot for The Smiths, a British remake of Everybody Loves Raymond.
Mack has since taken three solo shows on tour, all of which have since been released on DVD. The first of these was Lee Mack Live, which saw him nominated as Best Live Stand-Up at the 2006 British Comedy Awards. He followed this up in 2010 with the twice-extended Lee Mack: Going Out Live. His most recent solo tour was Lee Mack: Hit The Road Mack in 2014, which included ten sold-out nights at the Hammersmith Apollo:
Mack has also performed stand-up at televised events including several appearances at the Royal Variety Performance, a spot as one of the comperes at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in 2012, and the BBC televised stand-up showcase Live at the Apollo:
Although Mack’s work in television and on stage has been prolific, he’s also featured on a variety of radio shows including Desert Island Discs and the original radio version of The Mighty Boosh. From 2005-2007 he hosted two series of The Lee Mack Show on BBC Radio 2; the Sony Award-nominated show included a mix of sketches, stand-up, music and special guests. Most recently he featured as the latest curator of The Museum of Curiosity, the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game hosted by John Lloyd.
In 2012 Mack released his autobiography, Mack the Life. His debut book charts his rise to fame, tracking his comedy career through from its earliest days making his friends and family laugh, through to his time on the circuit and beyond.
Last year saw Mack make another debut as the comic took on his first West End stage role. He appeared in Moliere’s comedy The Miser at the Garrick Theatre, playing the servant of Griff Rhys Jones’ curmugeonly lead, Harpagon. His performance received a positive reception, with one reviewer stating ‘nobody else owns the quicksilver, audience-baiting looseness here with such ease and intimacy’.
Mack’s sitcom Not Going Out is proving to be as popular as ever, with studio recordings for its tenth series set to begin next month. The series will air in 2019 and, as Mack revealed earlier this year, will feature the show’s first-ever live episode:
‘We’re doing a live one. Talk about jumping the shark, that’ll be it then, won’t it?
‘When I heard of other people doing live shows I thought why, “Would you bother doing that?” It’s for your own satisfaction. It doesn’t aid the quality. And then I thought, “Oh go on then, why not?” They showed me the money…’
Next year, Mack will also be joining his Would I Lie To You? colleagues, David Mitchell and Rob Brydon, for their first live tour together. Brydon, Mack and Mitchell: Town to Town will see the trio play selected theatres across the UK, with stops in cities including Sheffield, Cardiff and Brighton, for an unmissable evening of chat, comedy and general messing around.
As confirmed in the Kerblam! sneak peek we were treated to as part of this week’s Children in Need telethon, Lee Mack’s character, Dan Cooper, is a warehouse worker at the galaxy’s largest retailer, Kerblam.
Mack – a long-time Doctor Who fan – let his casting on the show slip earlier this year whilst taking part in a radio interview alongside Series 11’s Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien). He claimed that he had ‘harassed’ showrunner Chris Chibnall for the role, even sending him a video of him stepping out of his very own TARDIS – complete with his very own Dalek – in the hope of securing a part in the show.
His efforts certainly paid off; Kerblam! writer Pete McTighe even wrote the part of Dan specifically for Mack, as he revealed in the latest edition of Doctor Who Magazine:
“I’m a big fan of Lee, and when Chris mentioned that he was keen to appear in the series I wrote it in his voice. From that point on I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it.”
However, Mack has also described his role in Kerblam! as ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ – so with mysterious goings-on at the retailer being investigated by the Doctor and her friends, how will Lee Mack’s Dan be involved?
Doctor Who continues this Sunday 18th November with Kerblam! on BBC One and BBC America.
“Delivery for the Doctor!” A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!
Guest starring Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack. Written by Pete McTighe. Directed by Jennifer Perrott.