Review: Stewart Lee ****

FOR all Stewart Lee's self-referential deconstruction of the art of stand-up comedy, it's still the basic puncturing of pomposity, whether of others or of himself, that provides the best material. Or jokes, as they are more simply known.

His brilliant appraisal of Adrian Chiles - television's flavour of the month until he jumped ship to ITV's Daybreak - as "a Toby Jug that somehow learnt how to speak" is fast becoming his trademark gag, even though Lee would probably recoil at such a notion.

Russell Howard and the Mock the Week team are similarly condemned, with Lee claiming that one of his own jokes has an "appropriate level of cruelty" that would make it suitable for the TV panel show.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is not all about light entertainment, however. His skewering of those who now sympathise with the "old-fashioned" IRA simply because Al-Qaidi presents an even worse form of terrorism is effective, as he manages the difficult feat of poking fun at murderers and their acolytes without lessening their evil.

This gentle vitriol is even poured on his own head. Lee, these days married and a father, uses the show to mock his own place in the comedy firmament. His attempts to use his fame to raise money for charity are dwarfed by TV regulars Howard and Lee is merciless on his disappointments.

It is this attitude that makes the show work so well. Lee's righteous anger, particularly when it comes to a brilliant anecdote about his suave Oxford University contemporary David Cameron, is used to reveal his own inadequacies as much as the hypocrisy of others. Vegetable Stew may be a mix of new and untested material but its satisfying taste comes from Lee's own modesty.

Related topics: