Stewart Lee: Content Provider review *****


Stewart Lee: Content Provider

G Live Guildford, 10th March 2017

There are only a few stand up comedians I would pay money to see (or even go for free for that matter). The vast majority of the observational comedy types off the telly cannot sustainably make me laugh or think over a couple of hours and I don’t put enough effort in to find out about the “lesser lights” of the comedy world. Moreover comedy is the one genre where I need a chum to go with, that’s the nature of this live experience. Finally I prioritise theatre, art and classical music performance over books, film, comedy, dance, opera and people chatting about stuff. There’s only so much time.

However, with Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson at the cerebral, reflexive end of the spectrum and Tim Vine and Milton Jones at the punning end I have more than enough to keep me happy.

And Stewart Lee is by some way the funniest man alive or ever. It’s probably to do with content (same age, sameish world view), delivery (mocking, occasionally vicious) and technique (he is just really good at his job). In this year’s show he sets his sights for a tiny bit on Brexit and Trump (in a smart repeat), the value of his own material (I confess I probably laughed the most at the economics of his DVD sales – that’s the accountant in me), bondage in days gone by (historicism as a device to mock the youth in hyper-consumerist capitalism) and narcissism generally (always a target for scorn from those of us who deny or are embarrassed by our own attention seeking behaviours). Sometimes direct, sometimes in collusion with the audience (or parts thereof), always the deconstruction. Who else would use Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer to frame a show – a figure looking away from his apparent audience? Oh and the reference to a post-laughs show – brilliant.

The astounding thing is you kind of know what you are going to get in theory with Mr Lee but you go in completely blind to the practice (praxis?) of how it will be delivered. And he just keeps on toying with you even when you have see him enough times to be wary and to think you know what’s coming next. Much like The Fall I would say. His favourite band. And mine. Or like a comedy version of the Frankfurt School (look it up).

Oh and once or twice he genuinely laughed at his own jokes. Which was quite nice. Maybe he is starting to age gracefully. I hope not.

Anyway if you know then you will be going/have gone to see this. If you don’t then it is easy enough to find out if you will like him on t’internet. If you are tempted you will not regret it. The SO came along for the first time – “yes he was pretty funny” – trust me that is as ringing an endorsement as it is possible to get.

Next year’s show will also get five stars as will the year after that, and the show after that.

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