Stewart Lee

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I've loved the comedy stylings of Stewart Lee since the early 90's, when and Richard Herring had a Radio 1 show called 'Fist of Fun".  It was trendy, liberal, funny, and too cool for school.  These are all adjectives that could be accurately used to describe the early 90's me, so it was right in my wheelhouse.  Since then I've followed Lee's career, including the notorious 'Jerry Springer: The Opera', whose BBC broadcast attracted 55000 complaints, blasphemy prosecutions, street protests, death threats and an unsuccessful lawsuit from the Christian Institute. 

I even met Stewart Lee in person when he was enjoying a cigarette outside The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh prior to his fringe show.  I had spoken to Lee on the phone just a few weeks earlier in my capacity as a call centre worker and had sorted out a problem for him.  He remembered the call and graciously chatted to me and my friend right up until showtime, he thanked me for sorting out his problem and said to come and see him after and he'd sort me out with a signed copy of his book.  

Ah, Mr. McSloy.  You're here for your free book!After a brilliant set, I sidled up to the end of the queue that was forming outside to claim what was rightfully mine.  "Ah, Mr. McSloy!"  Lee proclaimed loudly "you're here for your free book!"  I sheepishly agreed that I was, took it and read most of it greedily on the Megabus back to Perth.  It's called 'How I Escaped My Certain Fate' and it's one of the few great books I've read on the subject of comedy.  

Arriving at the Concert Hall, I grab a quick pint of Ossian before taking my seat just ahead of Mr. Lee taking the stage.  To anyone who hasn't been to one of his shows before it's worth pointing out that in his stand up Lee plays an amped up version of himself that is more bitter, angry and insufferably woke (I believe that's what the kid's call being politically aware these days) than he is in person, often berating and taunting the audience during the process.  Tonight is no exception as he kicks thing off by threatening to do hilariously unspeakable things to any mobile phones he finds in use during the performance.  He then reprimands us for clapping a PC sentiment: "That's right Perth!  Clap the things you agree with.  'I went to see Stewart Lee at Perth.  'Was it funny?'  'No, but I agreed the hell out of it!"  I know he's really having a pop at the concept of confirmation bias and not specifically at us as an audience but that doesn't stop it hurting my feelings a little bit!

A revitalised and energetic Lee then does some searing material on Brexit, pouring a big bowl of scorn on those who claim they voted leave for legitimate, We only wanted bendy bananas, and now here we are in a chaotic furnace of hatenon-xenophobic reasons: "We only wanted bendy bananas, and now here we are in a chaotic furnace of hate!"  It's acerbic, angry stuff but it seems he's almost breaking character when he looks straight at us and says "If you think it's funny that Boris Johnson is foreign secretary, I guarantee you, he will be Prime Minister!"  His greatest disdain though is reserved for the Machiavellian right-wing power couple, Michael Gove and Sarah Vine, who he describes as "Neil and Christine Hamilton for the 2 Girl 1 Cup generation".  

The funniest section of the show though concerns Lee's obsession with sourcing copies of his stand up DVD's at a slightly lower price than the £3.50 that he pays his wholesaler, thus gaining a few extra pence profit on each one he sells at his gigs.  This is all delivered on a set constructed of rival stand-up comics dvd's that he has purchased for 1p each on Amazon.  He even does his little Michael McIntyre dance, all the while crushing the DVD's of lesser comedians underfoot. His commitment to this absurd, though possibly factual premise, is comedy gold and it gets the biggest laughs of the night from the audience.

The second half brings some Trump gags that precisely mirror the Brexit material from the first half.  One guy in the audience, perhaps trying to be helpful, bellows out the punchlines before they land.  An exasperated Lee declares "You're the kind of bloke who goes to see Othello and shouts, 'Don't get jealous mate.  She's not been unfaithful to you!'"

I find it pretty gratifying when people who always bang on about 'Game of Thrones' get a proper roasting.  Personally, I point blank refuse to watch or read anything with dragons in it, due to the fact I'm not a bairn.  So I'm feeling pretty smug when Lee describes the HBO fantasy bonkfest as "Peter Stringfellows Lord of the Rings".  Although I have to admit, I felt a little uneasy when he started laying into 'Pokemon Go', glancing down furtively to double-check I wasn't wearing my Primark 'Pokemon Trainer' T-shirt.  Luckily I'm wearing my big boy shirt.   Phew!

The show ends with a high brow visual gag incorporating a Romanticism era painting, Mr Lee in period costume and a selfie stick.  It's been a great night of comedy and Lee's hit ratio, at least for me, has been pretty high as I've laughed a lot.  I head out to the merch stall to buy another book before meeting up with my girlfriend and heading home.

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