Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Driven to laughter

So, only a few days after suggesting Stewart Lee is "bitterly angry at TV executives", and especially those involved with BBC2, there he was appearing in the first of his new six-part series 'Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle' on - you guessed it - BBC2.

As has been said elsewhere, credit to the Beeb for giving him the freedom to make what is to all intents and purposes a straight stand-up show (last night's sketches were a relatively unsubstantial garnish to the main feast) - and for appreciating the value of his characteristic pauses and stretched gags, rather than imposing obvious abbreviations or cuts.

I witnessed Lee roadtesting the vast majority of last night's material - about books, and specifically the new genre of "celebrity hardbacks" - in October, when he was unfairly upstaged by a surprise guest headlining appearance by Eddie Izzard. On that occasion, I complained that I'd heard most of Izzard's routine trotted out on a repeat of 'The Graham Norton Show' the previous night, so in a way it's ironic that Lee was repeating himself last night - but, personally speaking, the difference is simple: Izzard's material wasn't particularly great, whereas Lee's was. Hence the discovery that he also seems to have mined '41st Best Stand-Up Ever!' for a forthcoming episode is reason for rejoicing rather than disappointment.

As Lee himself would concede (and indeed has), though, he's not to everyone's taste, and here's one amusing dissenting voice. I particularly like the way the key points are handily emboldened, just in case you haven't the time to read the whole review - presumably because you're halfway through 'Harry Potter And The Tree Of Nothing' and want to get it finished before the film comes out...

And what are those key points, exactly? That Lee's comedy is "satire for snobs". That "My [reviewer Sally McIlhone's] dad is a better comedian than Stewart Lee" (given his choice of "surly, arrogant, laboured" as an endorsement in the past, that one could well appear on a future poster). And that Chris Moyles and Jeremy Clarkson, the primary targets of the show, are "sardonic talents" who "incidentally, are immeasurably funnier than Lee".

Needless to say, it's reviews like that that illustrate just how much we need him back on the idiot box.

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