Monday, January 03, 2011

Stewart Lee : Nineties Comedian

I almost hesitate to call this a stand-up comedy dvd. True, the opera director Stewart Lee does indeed stand up for a hour and quarter, and the end result is undoubtedly very funny indeed, but there are very few jokes per se (apart from particular joke, especially written so that it could not be stolen by squeaky voiced mainstream comic Joe Pasquale).

Instead, Lee uses the time to take the audience on a journey into some very dark places indeed. He describes his health problems that lead to an embarrassing endoscopy examination that touches upon his status as a 'well known comedian'. He describes the surreal experience of waking up on the morning of the 7/7 bombings in London to find his email in box full of concerned messages from friends round the world and moves to the point where he is almost nostalgic for 'the gentlemen bombers of the IRA ... proper British terrorists (even if they didn't want to be British)'. He muses on the nature of comedy and the role of the clown to comment and provoke from within a privileged circle,

The story closes with Lee at his lowest point - suffering from health problems, being at the focus of media storm of hate mail and accusations of blasphemy as co-author of Jerry Springer - the Opera, and a visit home to his mother to escape from the pressure. On a drunken walk home from the pub he encounters the heavenly presence of Jesus and describes the meeting in ways that are simultaneously obscenely biological, blasphemous (in the legal sense of the word) and strangely moving. At times he turns his back on the audience and leaves the stage, and at another point he lowers the microphone to shout whilst we struggle to hear what he is saying. He deliberately alienates the audience and then brings them back on board, and makes us all complicit in his conclusions.

It is powerful stuff, but I suspect that the people who would most benefit from seeing it are the least likely to pick up this DVD from Go Faster Stripe. The rest of you should watch it anyway.

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