herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Review

None of us is qualified to review Stewart Lee. That's what he thinks, anyway. Do we really have to use the word 'alternative' to define Lee's intricate brand of stand-up comedy? Probably.

The British comic reads his own press. He carries around a list of quotes - the negative ones, obviously. Because Stewart Lee (the character) is only too happy to celebrate the confusion of his critics.

The gist here is that a floppy-fringed Lee is preparing a fourth season of his acclaimed Comedy Vehicle television series, and it's up to us to help the man steer his way through what works and what doesn't.

Yes, A Room with a Stew is a work-in-progress kinda deal. Or maybe that's just what Lee would like us to think. Confused? Oh, we're only getting started.

disrespectful

The first half finds Lee attempt to create an observational set about Islamophobia.

The second involves a tedious, directionless routine on urine. The latter falls in on itself within minutes, with Lee eventually blaming us for not getting 'it'.

This is, of course, part of the script. Some reviewers have called out Lee on his so-called disrespectful behaviour towards audiences. They don't get 'it', either. It's a load of codswallop, if you ask us.

Again, the man is in character; the fans came to be yelled at and ridiculed. The problem here is that Lee - now 47, and a tad more cynical and smug than is expected - seems a bit lost.

Quite often, there is very little 'to get'. How else do you explain the chap resorting to jokes about his home life, when that's exactly the kind of thing he's been known to rally against?

Lee goes out of his way to distance himself from more popular, mainstream, observational comics.

It's telling, however, that Lee (an acquired taste) directs his ire at the obvious offenders (Russell Howard, for example). A first-class curmudgeon, Lee dissects and deconstructs his own jokes and questions our response and reaction.

If something doesn't land, it's our fault, apparently. Lee says it himself - he is a niche act that has spiralled out of control.

Here, he gets away with murder, padding out an uneven, half-baked list of ideas and wordy, unfinished reflections on politics, religion, race and pee, with tiresome call-backs and a bizarre (staged) meltdown.

Simply put, the material isn't good enough, but his followers lap it up. Stewart Lee lists various items of food, everyone chuckles.

Stewart Lee talks about comedians taking their own lives, everyone chuckles. Why are we laughing, he wonders? He's got a point.

At the top of his game, Stewart Lee is unbeatable. But we don't need to see the dress rehearsal. HHIII

> CHRIS WASSER

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