Review: Stewart Lee *****

TOUTING himself as the "41st Best Stand-Up Ever", cult comedian Stewart Lee was at Sheffield's Lyceum theatre on Wednesday to continue his "If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One" tour.

Having received his calling on the Edinburgh Fringe in the 1980s, performing alongside Richard Herring and Sheffield University's own Richard Canning, Lee has gone on to court controversy with his avant-garde television, theatre and stand-up work.

Opening to rock and roll guitars and dry ice, the comic's entrance mocks the overblown antics of comedians such as Michael MacIntyre and Frankie Boyle, who are personally lambasted throughout the set. Lee swiftly returns to the deconstructive stylings he is renowned for, in repeating himself, editing and re-editing his material as he goes along, and generally bringing attention to the procedure of his own performance.

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The show is peppered with surreal interjections, such as a leap off the stage to rant about a pear cider advert's "theft" of Lee's "family motto", which is said to be "Give it to me straight, like a pear cider made from 100 per cent pear."

On the night, it is this extended pear cider sketch that gets the biggest laughs, bringing about a conclusion determined to make an authentic statement.

By choosing to sing a Steve Earle song – Galway Girl – at the close of the gig, which had been used to soundtrack said cider producer's adverts, Lee leaves us committed to his idea that the last taboo in comedy is not in fact to be found in controversial statement-making, but in a "man trying to do something sincere".

With the evidence on show tonight, he did not disappoint in that.

Sheffield Lyceum

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