Stewart Lee: hardly a ‘work in progress’
As seasoned stand-up and unrepentant Telegraph-baiter Stewart Lee continues to approach national-treasure status, his new Fringe show proves that his unique talent remains undimmed. Not because A Room With a Stew is yet another meandering conceptual masterpiece, like last year’s meditation on idealised societies, Carpet Remnant World. It’s collection of extended bits Lee is honing for the next series of his BAFTA-winning show, Comedy Vehicle. But even in these early sketches, stuffed with his trademark self-aggrandisement and semi-affected disdain for his audience, he shows he’s as incisive and hilarious as ever.
In this new set, he puts himself very much in the role of Stewart Lee The Comedian, the exaggerated version of his fortysomething self who is sickened by the new success he’s found in recent years. He sprays as much scorn on the alleged dimwits who buy tickets because he’s now a name, as he does the ‘cackling sycophants’ who lap up ever side-eyed put-down. Even Graham Norton, who Lee remembers fondly from their shared days on the circuit, gets it in the neck for beating him to another BAFTA win, and then outrageously refusing to apologise.
He weighs in on the election, prostitution and, strangest of all, urine – to which he devotes the second half of the show. Culminating in another one of his inspired, drop-the-mic rants to the audience – this time accusing the room of driving comedians to suicide – A Room With a Stew has all the pace, tension and gags to be an airtight hour. At the risk of sounding like a cackling sycophant, only someone of Lee’s calibre could call this a ‘work in progress’.
Tom Slater is assistant editor at spiked.
Stewart Lee: A Room with a Stew is at Assembly Rooms until 30 August.
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