After a few stand-up specials back to back from the profoundly enjoyable Stewart Lee, I was surprised that they hadn’t begun to blend into one blob. Like most comedians of this generation, there’s a lack of quality control, and the material of one set may bleed into a former or future piece of work. But Stewart Lee manages to evade these problems with relative ease, and his thoughts on the world as a whole often deviate into random strands of knowledge that verges on a mental breakdown.
Lee brings us through some entertaining highs and miserable lows in a way only he can. His performance here doesn’t quite reach the heights of his other works. Sure, he has some great material to throw at us here, but never once comes close to the shattering heights of Carpet Remnant World or If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One. Although he doesn’t offer up nearly as much memorable material here as he does in his other stand-up specials, fans of Lee will feel right at home as he blasts through a cultural state that is very different to the one we live in now.
It’s like looking through a portal into a different world, as Lee goes through culturally relevant topics of the late 2000s. A surge of nostalgia might wash over some older viewers, where Lee mocks the Carphone Warehouse, talks of Big Brother and just about anything else he can see that’s wrong with mainstream reality entertainment. It feels much looser and proud of its status as an event, rather than just a regular old comedy show. That’s the trick to Lee, he manages to create more than a stand-up set, he goes beyond the pale in what we would expect from a comedian. He’s all the better for it.
“Is this innovation or a mistake?” Lee profoundly states as he clutches what looks like a Guinness in one hand, idly standing in the middle of a terrified crowd. It’s yet another piece of Lee’s work where the line of comedy and performance art is blurred once again, and come to think of it, that’s effectively the entire point of his work in smaller venues like this. His brash ventures into a startled audience is what makes these shows such a treat to watch so frequently. He looks to strike fear, rather than fun into an audience, and this is by far the best example of how his work can be both entertaining and eerie.