So Stewart Lee goes mainstream. Which means moving up from back street comedy clubs to a small theatre. Yet perversely enough this seems to be his most confrontational and deliberately 'difficult' show yet. True he did spend most of "90's Comedian" being extremely blasphemous but frankly there are more people in Britain now who worship Mock The Week and Top Gear than Jesus. The basic theme is a venomous deconstruction of the recent comedy scene and what Stew thinks is a fixation on being deliberately cruel and insulting instead of insightful. So that means that Frankie Boyle and "those Russell comedians" get their own subtle mocking, and Top Gear and Richard (He's not a real hamster) Hammond gets both barrels. This is where I came verrrry close to knocking a star off because I think he does get a little bit repetitive and carried away with one basic idea (that Top Gear dishes it out so it would be funny to be as ridiculously insulting back at them). Stewart Lee's absolute greatest strength has been his ability to mercilessly mock an entire idea or group of people in such a quick and subtle way that it takes a moment to register what he just did. Take the bit about the little village his mother lives in "90's Comedian", the whole Little England world and mindset is summed up a few delicious lines; "They didn't tell me because I wasn't from there", "He came in his coat Mrs. Lee, whatever next?". Here there's a breathtakingly silly broadside against the seemingly innocuous Richard Hammond, but it gets a bit stuck and doesn't go anywhere. In fact Stew's recent book, and the excellent interview with Kevin Eldon on the DVD, makes the point about his disappointment with modern comedy better than his show does. Still, the fifth star came back again with the Pear Cider finale, a mickey take of epic proportions against that most deserving of targets; cynical TV adverts and the people who appear in them.
So it's not for everyone (obviously), but the clue's in the title isn't it?