"In the slipstream of the mass popularity of stand-up, even the person who is supposed to be the alternative to stand-up can do reasonably well. All of us comics must offer thanks to one man, and one man alone, for this state of affairs. Michael McIntyre.
For it was 'Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow' that convinced the public that they might like stand-up, en masse, and he has begun to make household names of some hugely worthwhile acts, who somehow managed to shine in the show's brutal showcase format. Though McIntyre's massively popular and super-evolved brand of observational schtick is regarded with baffled ambivalence by many comedians, he may, on balance, be a good thing for the future of stand-up as an art form. The skipping humorist's utilitarian ubiquity means that everyone knows what a stand-up comedian is now. And the idea of going to see stand-up comedy is now no longer something only those with very specialised interests do."
Stewart Lee singling Michael McIntyre out for credit (if not outright praise), rather than damning him as the embodiment of all he hates about stand-up? Not something I'd have expected to read...
Lee's got a point - comedy is a booming business now, and it's not just the big hitters who are benefitting from McIntyre's success and patronage. But this suggests that the erosion of the traditional divide between mainstream and alternative comedy doesn't really matter - a viewpoint which seems hard to square with his usual pronouncements on stand-up.
What he does recognise, though, is that we're at a turning point and that this great breakthrough and surge of interest could well result in stultifying, derivative, tediously safe comedy. I suspect (fear) that that will be the outcome of entrusting stand-up's future to the general public, though the normally cynical Lee appears to have more faith in his fellow man. Perhaps, if a safe consensus comedy does come to rule the roost, then that will encourage a new oppositional or alternative strand to develop and the cycle will begin all over again?