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S. J. Parris and Stephanie Merritt

Review < Back

Stewart Lee: A Room With a Stew - a tongue-in-cheek comic on top of his game

Sunday 23rd August 2015

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“No one is equipped to review me,” Stewart Lee declares near the beginning of this work-in-progress show, referring to the multiple layers of irony and self-awareness that exist between him and his audience. Feigning contempt for the audience and the recognition his television work has brought him is, he explains, something he does “for a laugh – which is within the remit of this job”.

Relentless scrutiny of what is within the remit of comedy underpins all Lee’s standup; he will test a set piece to destruction, stretching it almost past the limit of the audience’s patience, until the repetition itself becomes the source of the laughter. In the first half, this begins with the offhand remark that Graham Norton’s chatshow beat him to the Bafta for comedy this year, and spirals into a beautifully controlled piece of demagoguery about the state of television entertainment. His targets are deliberately obvious – Russell Brand, Live at the Apollo – but he wrongfoots us by turning his scorn on our responses to the material. After a heavily flagged-up piece of reincorporation, he rounds furiously on the audience: “Don’t clap. You’re applauding your own ability to remember things.” ...

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