Monday, 18 January 2010

Stewart Lee: Theatre of Hate

Last Saturday my wife and I managed to get out of the house for the night a deux, yes, quite unaccompanied, and initially I was so fazed by the shock of the new that it was only as the lights went up on Stewart Lee at the Leicester Square Theatre that I remembered what had been the ostensible, entertainment-oriented purpose of the evening. (I had already drunk a pint of beer, in a glass - albeit a plastic one - so I was mildly euphoric - albeit clear-eyed about what the morning would bring, not to say what was owed the babysitter, and this after a £4 pint of beer...)
At any rate, I got over my initial stupefaction, because Stewart Lee was very funny, and gradually I remembered that this had been my confident expectation, based on my admiration for last year's BBC2 Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle, an admiration I'd expressed loudly enough for my wife to take a punt on these tickets. On Saturday night Lee made at least one gag about the low audience figures that series attracted, which may have been just an appealing mode of self-deprecation, or maybe a sign that his comedy lies on the cusp of the mainstream as it currently stands. Lee is a sort of anti-comedian: he certainly makes enough disparaging comments about lesser comedians; but more especially he does That Thing of deconstructing his act a little in the course of delivering it, such that the deconstruction almost seems to be the act itself - until, invariably, he exposes what is the actual essence of his comedic schtick, which is a form of moral disgust, a palpable sense that the world is simply not good enough, its faults both disguised and aggravated by certain popular loudmouth charlatans, some of them comedians. Part of this weltschmerz, Lee makes plain, comes from being a 41-year-old man, with 20 years in the job behind him, physically marked (on top of the usual dissipation) by being the father of a 2-year-old boy who, I imagine, gives Lee the runaround but also the impetus to keep protesting the inadequate state of the world...

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