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No, Morrissey hasn't let himself go. Nor has Terry Christian or the lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals. This is, in fact, Mr Stewart Lee. The greatest stand-up in Britain today, don't you know.
In a nutshell
The arrival of another Stewart Lee series on BBC Two is always a cause for celebration, and also a cause for bafflement. Because how on earth does a comedian as staunchly “alternative” as Lee – a comedian whose general stand-up routine consists of painfully dissected anti-jokes interspersed with epic stretches of neurotically analytical meta-commentary – keep getting major airplay on a major TV station? We have no idea, but thank goodness he does, because he’s a one-man antidote to just about everything else on the box.
This new series sees him even grumpier than usual. “I want you to laugh in spite of me, not because of me,” he said, which pretty sums up the whole Stewart Lee approach to comedy. What followed was a linguistic labyrinth of bizarre digressions, bonkers anecdotes (like the time he went “orienteering with grindcore band Napalm Death”) and mock-angry rebukes to fellow celebrities (he compared James Corden watching a Stewart Lee show to a dog listening to classical music). His apparent theme was wealth, but this being Stewart Lee he barely got round to it, thanks to all the endless, excruciating asides and time set aside to verbally abuse the audience.
What's the verdict?
He’s definitely not for everyone, and he’ll always be the dark skulking distant relative of stadium-filling stand-ups like Michael McIntyre and Kevin Bridges. But it’s good to know that Stewart Lee is out there, fighting the good fight on behalf of difficult, overly verbose, hideously intelligent comedy. Long may he go on.