Writer: Stewart Lee
Director: Stewart Lee
Reviewer: Kelly McGibney
Stewart Lee has had a stand up career which has spanned twenty five years. Due to regular television appearances in the last five or so years he has reached a status that only a handful of working comics can claim: he has become a household name. Lee acknowledges this status very early on in his show and confesses that success is a double-edged sword. Yes, as a household name he can easily sell out a theatre (The Civic Theatre in Chelmsford was completely packed to the brim) however he revealed that he now feels a certain amount of pressure to be hilarious. Lee had an odd mixture of self depreciation and arrogance which had the audience in stitches the entire evening.
I was not familiar with Lee’s work prior to this performance; however, like so many of the British public, I had heard his name in passing while flipping through the BBC programming schedule. In an early conversation with the audience, Lee acknowledged that his particular style of stand-up was not to everyone’s taste, and I found this to be the case for me. Sarcastic, dry and acerbic, Stewart Lee is everything that a ‘typical’ British comic should be. However, I felt that he lacked a certain amount of charm and likeableness which many of his contemporaries manage. Despite an interesting title, there was no common thread throughout the show – I naively assumed the show was Lee coming to terms with becoming a middle-aged father with two children under the age of five, and that his entire life could be summed up by spending weekends at ‘Carpet Remnant World’. In actuality, the entire evening was a sarcastic monologue ranging from every subject thinkable such as 9/11, Islam and buying his own pants for the first time. What Lee spent most of the evening doing was actually explaining why his jokes are funny to the audience, taking much longer in the explanation than in the delivery. I found this particular technique humorous the first couple of times, but by the end of the evening, I was amazed that the audience were still eating it up.
In all honesty, I laughed out loud for about 10% of the material and chuckled at a further 20% which means I was genuinely un-entertained for about two-thirds of the performance. I have to say that I was a huge exception and the audience were in uproarious laughter for the entire evening. While Lee was certainly not to my taste, I appreciate that his certain brand of humour and delivery is very popular and made for an entertaining night out.