The first time that I actually saw Stewart Lee live was about 12 years ago at the Soho Theatre. I went in with high expectations; my ticket buddy on the night absolutely loved his solo work and I had always enjoyed the ‘Lee & Herring’ double act.
Sadly he died, not unusual for a comedian (It happens to the best), but this death was different, it was a savage suicide. Stewart Lee didn’t even try to save the show, he revelled in the misery of his audience and the silence that greeted the majority of his words. I left Soho that night confused and disappointed, why would a top professional give up so easily? And why would he show such disdain to an audience of fans?
Many comedians have suggested answers to this over the years and even though some make a modicum of sense I must confess that I have not seen Stuart Lee perform live since that night… this week, that changed.
Content Provider begins with the ironic twist that this particular content provider REALLY doesn’t want you to share his content – check your mobile during the show at your own peril!
When the first half proper begins we are treated to some ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ style stand-up where the audience are told that they are the real reason that any one specific gag doesn’t land. It’s not the quality material thats invisible, it is of course down to our lack of intellect and political understanding that we just don’t see it.
Following an amused yet bemused interval chat with some of the other audience members we returned to our see to see where this show was going.
The second half proved to be far better than the first as the shows true journey began to take shape (We, the audience were even praised for seemingly becoming more intelligent during the break!). We were treated to anecdotes, call backs and a Freddy Krueger scale collection of burns for popular culture, social media, ‘mock-the-week’ gen comedians and anyone under 40 aka “The youth”??
Stewart Lee is a fiendishly intelligent performer and his shows are incredibly layered and well crafted. He offers a cynicism that appeals greatly and I’m pretty show he wouldn’t even know how to pull a verbal punch.
That being said I just didn’t enjoy the show, I laughed on occasion but again I expected so much more from a clown of this caliber. And that’s okay, I’m willing to accept that the fault is mine.
I’m very glad that I revisited this act and got a chance to experience his ring craft in full. I can see the Emperors clothes… they just aren’t my style.
Clown Stars: * * *
@Leicester Square Theatre, London