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Sadie Hasler: Lady Bones
Sam Simmons: Fail
Sammy J: Skinny Man, Modern World
Sanderson Jones: Taking Liberties
Sara Pascoe Vs Her Ego
Sarah Bennetto: The King and I
Sarah Campbell: 27 Up
Sarah Millican: Chatterbox
Sassy Clyde: By Name By Nature
School of Comedy 
The Scot And The Jew: Doubly Cheap
Scott Agnew: Pride (In The Name of Love)
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: On The Telly
Scraping The Barrel
Sean Hegarty: Don’t Be A Comedian In Northern Ireland While Drinking Your Buckfast Under A Bridge
Sean Hughes: Ducks & Other Mistakes I’ve Made
Sean Lock: Lockipedia [Edinburgh 2010]
Seann Walsh: I’d Happily Punch Myself In The Face
Set To Stun
The Seven Deadly Sings
Sex And Hugs And Forward Rolls
Sex, Drugs And Rock'n'Roll... Please
Sex, Lies And The KKK
Seymour Mace In Hanging Out With Seymour Mace
Seymour Mace In Seymourland
Seymour Mace's Dafternoon Show
Sh!t Theatre Present Sh!t Theatre
The Shambles 
Shappi Khorsandi: The Moon On A Stick
Shazia Mirza: Multiple Choice
She's Black, He's Jewish, They're Still Married, Oy Vey
Shirley & Shirley
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical 
The Shrimps Present: ShrimpTale
Shrink: The Outrageous Hypnotist
Sidos Eklektic Fix
Silence of the Trams II
Simon Donald Is Completely Hatstand
Simon Evans: Fringe Magnet
Simon Munnery: Self-employed
Six And A Half Loves By Terry Saunders
The Sketch Emporium
Sketchatron: Nano 
Sketchprov Presents: The Owls Of Reattachment
Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting: Daddy's Basement Circus
Slap And Giggle: Reformed
A Slightly Dangerous Comedy Occasion
Smith & Smith: A Matter of Life, Death and Middle-Distance Running
So You Think You're Funny? 2010
Some Comedy (In A Horse)
Sophie Black: A Sketch Show
Sound & Fury's Private Dick
Sound and Fury's Testaclese And Ye Sack Of Rome
Spank! The Big One
The Special Reserve Comedy Benefit
Spring Day: We're Not In Kansas Anymore
Stand Up For Freedom 2010
Stand-Up For African Mothers
Stand-Up Showcase At The Hive
Stephen Carlin: The Podium of Unconditional Surrender
Stephen K Amos: The Best Medicine
Steve Pretty On The Origin Of The Pieces
Stewart Lee: Silver Stewbilee
Stewart Lee: Vegetable Stew
Stockholm Syndrome [Edinburgh 2010]
Stony Broke Fridays' Comedy Showcase
Storytellers' Club 2010
Strong & Wrong
Struts And Frets
Stuart Goldsmith: The Reasonable Man
Success: A Success Story
The Suitcase Royale: The Ballad of Backbone Joe
The Sunday Defensive: Further Complications
Superhero Impro Show
Susan Calman Chats Up...
Susan Calman: Constantly Seeking Susan
Susan Morrison's F is for...
Susan Murray: The Glottal Stops Here
Stewart Lee: Silver Stewbilee
To celebrate 23 years on the Edinburgh Fringes and to mark the publication of his new, snappily-entitled book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life And Deaths Of A Stand-up Comedian, the acclaimed writer and comedian Stewart Lee intersperses the best of his old and new material with some very special guests.
Stewart Lee: Silver Stewbilee
Such is Stewart Lee’s influence on comedy, not only can he fill a 2,000-seat venue amid all the rest of the Fringe hoopla, but he can also persuade thousands of people to vote that an obscure Japanese avant-garde troupe they’ve never seen is the best comedy show ever – and yet do it in the name of integrity.
Well, at his Silver Stewbilee to mark his 25 years on the Fringe – or, more truthfully, to launch his new book How I Escaped My Certain Fate – comedy aficionados finally got to see what they were backing, with Frank Chickens’ first Fringe appearance since they were nominated for the Perrier that same year Lee first attended the festival.
He picked their name semi-randomly to illustrate how the Foster’s-backed poll to find the ‘comedy god’ of the past 30 years was biased towards modern favourites, unaware that the group was even still performing, albeit in a revised form. Seventeen of them, all in costumes, filled the stage at the close of this anniversary gig, and Michael McIntyre, they most certainly are not.
Thankfully, though, they are not pretentious tripe either – which must have been a real fear. With silly lyrics seemingly chosen for their sound rather than their meaning, they execute tightly choreographed dance routines that are as beautiful as they are bizarre. Nonetheless three songs, including their ‘greatest hit’ We Are Ninja (Not Geisha) and the preposterous My Husband Is A Spaceman, was probably enough to allow the audience to witness the spectacle without being left too baffled.
It was an unusual ending to a showcase that, despite all the hype about exciting mystery guests, was a largely predictable line-up of his friends who are already at the Fringe, all pretending to be someone else: Simon Munnery, Paul Putner, the actor Kevin Eldon, and his wife Bridget Christie. However, there were two surprises, one planned, one apparently not.
Eldon kicked off the show with smug Guardianista Paul Hamilton, the man who put the ‘wet’ in ‘po-wet’, delivering his verses about the real injustices in the world – such as inconsiderate campers at Glastonbury.
Putner adopted his long-forgotten guise of Earl Stevens, the slick American comic who never bothered to check his references before he came on stage, leaving him with a line in observational comedy about things no one could have observed. Belting out catchphrases from sitcoms that never made it across the Atlantic while mocking congressmen and Mets players somehow didn’t play with the Edinburgh crowd, even though he insists ‘this stuff killed at the Arkansas Chuckle Hut last week’. This massive in-joke is probably best enjoyed by serious comedy anoraks… so Lee’s audience lapped it up.
Munnery revived Alan Parker: Urban Warrior, still kicking against the system with pithy, often contradictory, slogans – ‘Ignorance is a weapon! Use it’ – and revolutionary placards, illegible to those of us at the back. Despite being a middle-aged man, or perhaps because of it, Parker’s naïve petulance plays as strongly as ever, thanks to whip-smart writing that’s stood the test of time.
Christie opened the second half as A Ant, another one for the cognoscenti, making a point about the tedious stereotypes that still burden female comedians – but combined with lots of deliberately puns around the word ‘ant’.
As for Lee’s own stand-up, the first half comprised the best of his more recent material, and the second a chance to do something newer, which he (inaccurately) predicted wouldn’t go down too well. Like his book, his live comedy now seems to come with sizeable footnotes such as ‘that’s poor choice of material for the start of the show’ or ‘I’m going to try to sell that joke to Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week as it shows the requisite contempt for the poor’.
The comedy around which this meta-comedy formed firstly involved middle-class middle-aged city people like himself moving to the country only to find themselves desperate for company and entertainment, and secondly and his hilariously provocative routine about Scottish hero William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace, the well-known gay paedophile, which Lee can entirely justify after discovering that he himself is genetically Scottish, in a fine take on the ridiculous arbitrary nature of national pride.
One extended routine dominated the second half, a typically esoteric, elaborate and largely made-up take on charity, his war veteran grandfather and why Russell Howard is responsible for dying children. It may be new material, but aside from a few uncertain moments when he was setting out his stall, it’s already gelling well, culminating in a tidy punchline – albeit one taken from one of his much older jokes – and even managing a joke at the expense of Amnesty International, the bastards.
This is all delivered with the mastery of repetition and pregnant pauses we expect of Lee, yet still with enough of a twist to defy those very expectations.
Talking of surprises, the first came at the end of the first half, when a vocal heckler started yelling from the stalls ‘Tell us a joke.’ He quickly revealed himself to be Richard Herring, who stormed the stage to Lee’s genuine astonishment: ‘You brought a ticket?’ he gasped
Herring proceeded to berate his former double-act partner for the lies in his memoirs (of sorts) and ripped the volume up in front of his bemused face. It was strange and funny, but over far too quickly, just a tantalising reminder of a great partnership.
The second surprise came towards the end as Eldon reappeared as Tony Rudd, the Seventies character he played in Look Around You who predicted the future of music in 2000 would be the futuristic track Machadaynu. And blow me if he wasn’t backed by Franz bloody Ferdinand – who also performed Do You Want To? and Take Me Out to the audience’s delight.
The band reappeared after the Frank Chickens to help Lee live out a rock star fantasy – performing the lead vocals for a sprightly cover version of a song from Boston punk outfit Mission of Burma. The title? That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate. A good title for a book, that…
|Date of live review: Thursday 19th Aug, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
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