Stewart Lee (5 stars)

This article is from 2007

Stewart Lee

Confrontational comic getting grief from his mum

It’s almost impossible to imagine that once upon a time Stewart Lee was in a creative and critical bunker. But after doing the Fringe for two decades he can look back on those days with wistful fondness, even remarking during this set that he half expects the downturn to take hold shortly with the nature of popularity being such a fickle cycle. For now, he deserves to be milking all the plaudits he can get after the glorious stage success of Jerry Springer and the vapid TV storm provoked by unforgiving Christian thugs.

One of the things about Lee is that he’s not so fond of the televisual medium. Having been mercilessly dumped by the BBC along with his mate Richard Herring in the 90s, it was to his amazement that he was invited back into the fold last year to produce a series centred on his own stand-up. Naturally, there’s a tragic yet simultaneously hilarious conclusion to that story, though Lee’s real small screen wrath is trained upon Channel 4, who gave him the title for this year’s show, 41st Best Stand-Up Ever!, based on their recent poll of the greatest stage comics in history. They should try telling that to his mum who clearly believes Tom O’Connor is more deserving of such a ranking.

Lee, as with Herring, has a genius for confrontational material which tests the audience’s resilience, not through its offensiveness, but for repeating phrases and skits until the crowd bleed for forgiveness. Here, though, there’s the sense that he’s playing to a gallery of devotees willing to accompany him on this awkward ride. Last week, Stewart Lee was quoted as saying that controversy is not always the key to selling tickets. He’s right. Raw, bravado talent like his should be more of a guarantee.

UdderBELLY’s Pasture, 0870 745 3083, until 27 Aug (not 15), 7.30pm, £12.50–£14 (£11–£12.50).

Stewart Lee

  • 5 stars

Another phenomenal contribution to the sanity of the world from Stewart Lee, full of the bravery and wit that have seen him through two decades of a comedy career. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007'