For some people, their list of must-see stand-ups (whether living or dead) is perhaps as important as a list of their favourite actors. I will not bore you with mine, but ever since I watched the first series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (more about that later), he has certainly been on that list.
Stewart Lee has been classed as ‘Alternative Comedy’ or even ‘meta-comedy’. His delivery of wordplay, self-reference and call-backs coupled with an idiosyncratic worldview are certainly not fit for the mainstream, and have made him a unique comedian in that there is nobody who is quite like him.
Turning on the television there is a good chance that you will see a stand-up comedian on some type of show. Be it a stand-up comedy revue such as Live at the Apollo, a panel show such as Mock the Week or QI, or indeed in some cases, even documentaries. But Stewart Lee has always avoided this type of exposure. When I told people that I was going to see him, most people looked foggy, as if they had heard the name but could not quite put a face to it. However, he has worked with big names from Steve Coogan to the Mighty Boosh, he wrote the incredibly controversial ‘Jerry Springer: the Opera’ and his series Comedy Vehicle, a show which features his stand-up interspersed with sketches, is now to enter its third series on the BBC.
He is also the first stand up comedy act I have ever seen live. It is worth having a look on YouTube to see exactly what I mean when I say this, but due to the nature of his comedy, I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for! This tour was to try out material for the third series of Comedy Vehicle. The first half of the set was based around him telling jokes to gauge the audience’s response to his material, almost as if he were judging each joke on how many laughs it received. He joked before he started that due to time, there would be no audience interaction, but ironically audience interaction was to predominate for the entire first half. In the second half the lights went down and we were treated to an almost nihilistic but incredibly funny view on the subject of ‘age’. Each episode of the ‘Comedy Vehicle’ deals with a certain subject – politics, religion, celebrity, television and so on, so we can only assume ‘age’ will be the theme for an episode in the next series.
The show was hosted on Friday 27th September in Leicester’s De Montfort Hall, a building I had never been in before but it was certainly a good space for stand-up and I recommend going to any type of show, being held there, if you get the chance.