15 June 2009 | bob the moo
Enjoyably structured and sharp stand-up comedy on a selection of subjects
Unfortunately I managed to miss several episodes of this series because of not having a Sky+ box and needing to remember each week to change the channel at certain times (which I often forget to do). However I did see the majority of the series where Stewart Lee covers topics such as celebrity books, the quality of television, the nature of his chosen career in stand-up comedy amongst other topics and I consider it unfortunate not to have seen all of the episodes because generally I found the show to be really enjoyable. Given that one cannot talk about Richard Herring without mentioning Stewart Lee, it should work the other way round to. Before I saw this show I had been to see Herring's Headmaster's Son show and, although funny, it seemed to be spend too much time on crudity to shock and a lesser amount of time on honest, clever observations.
The opposite is true of Lee's show and I suppose has always been the difference between them and was why they worked well together when they were a double act. In this show Lee tackles a different broad subject each week and, while there are a few sketches thrown in there to illustrate his points, mostly it is him doing stand-up in front of a small audience in a cool little venue which is too spacious to actually be a real comedy club (although I'll happily stand corrected on that). The stuff he does is generally very clever and suits his very dry, deadpan style of humour. I'm sure others will compare him to Jack Dee but for me he is cleverer than that because he has more of a detached irony to his material that means even when angry you do not think he is being broken down by it. His material also shows a lot of self-awareness and self-analysis (must be an age thing as Herring is the same) in how he does it – specifically his own "Travelodge material" which manages to be what it sounds like while also being a criticism of that material. His frustrations at "lesser" material comes through frequently in his discussion of other comedians and also books but it is best when he discusses the "Del Boy" moment always voted the "funniest moment ever" by British viewers – he delivers it on the floor banging his head on the stage and it is very funny.
It doesn't all work though. Some of the sketches don't work that well and some needed trimming while, on the stage, I never got used to the weirdly close "to camera" delivery when it happened – which was thankfully not too often. Otherwise though it was a great little comedy series that felt like a breath of fresh air compared to much of the comedy on the BBC. Sharp, funny and well delivered it is worth seeing if you like dry comedy.