Stewart Lee: 41st Best Stand-Up Ever

DVD review

This is an extended version of sardonic Stewart Lee’s acclaimed 2007 Edinburgh show, prompted by his ranking in a Channel 4 run-down.

His rating got him pondering the importance of popularity – particularly given that his own mother doesn’t think he’s in the same league as Tom O’Connor, whom she once saw perform on a cruise ship. He further questioned his own worth when he founds himself performing stand-up to an audience of entomologists, dressed as an insect, for no obvious reason.

But it’s not all so introspective, as in various lengthy digressions, Lee also ponders such topics as the Celebrity Big Brother racism row and the niceties of a liberal atheist trying to deal with the religious beliefs of those trying to appease a God he doesn’t believe in.

As usual, it’s all thoughtful stuff, and as he points out to the audience in one of many self-referential asides: ‘If you’ve not seen me before, the jokes are there, but some of you might have to raise your game.’

His comedy resolutely never takes the straightforward route, and he’s derisive of fellow comedians who do. Indeed, his parody of bad observational stand-up seems to have found its way into Lee Evans’s actual set. But S. Lee is equally cheeky about his own pomposity, his deliberately slow and repetitive style, and the whole ridiculousness pretence of stand-up.

This is definitely a knowing show, filmed in front of a suitable comedy-savvy crowd at The Stand in Glasgow. Often the laugh is at our own cleverness in getting his frame of  reference; he only needs read in a sarcastic tone the statement that Big Brother sponsor Carphone Warehouse issued over racism row for us to know, and share, his derision. But there are also strong, original jokes, to back up his arguments, too.

Lee also records his DVD rather differently from most, not only delivering some of the set from among the audience, but often addressing the camera directly, making those at home feel more involved, rather than just a passive observer.

Lee has a BBC Two show coming out next year. If it’s as good as this, we’ve a treat to look forward to.

Sample joke:‘ When the bad racism happened, it meant that Russell Brand was contractually obliged to look meaningfully into the camera, making a serious face, and to condemn racism in the strongest terms possible… while dressed as a cartoon pirate. '
Extras: A 45-minute interview with Lee, conducted by Johnny Vegas, and his perfromace at Pestival, an international festival about insects.
Recorded at: The Stand, Glasgow
To buy:

Main show running time: 79 mins
Certificate: 15

Release date: July 28, 2008

RRP: £15.99

Published: 22 Dec 2008

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