Review: Stewart Lee, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

It’s no exaggeration to call Stewart Lee a comedy genius. No comedian in the past decade has questioned and pushed stand-up comedy to the limits in the way he has.

Like most geniuses, Lee’s ideas aren’t always palatable to mainstream audiences. And rather than shy away from, or seek to remedy this fact, Lee revels in alienating audiences whose main comic references are Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr, preferring a more daring audience.

Lee’s shows are about the art of comedy – about the way jokes are structured and delivered, like he is trying to work out what it means to be a comic and where comedy can go as a medium. The first half of the show felt somewhat flat, with a long, repetitive riff about TV animal rescue shows. In the second half, Lee was on top form, with many of his big laughs building to a crescendo as he guided the audience around a surreal path approaching something resembling a punch-line.

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The show peaked with a hilarious rant that projected the logic of Ukip’s immigration policy into the distant past, complaining that the first fish to venture onto land was an immigrant who should have stayed in the sea. Throughout the show, it felt as though Lee was more concerned about perfecting the material for his TV show than performing a fully-realised live show. Lee has raised the bar so high on his recent tours that Much A-Stew About Nothing didn’t quite reach the level of brilliance he has in the past.