Stewart Lee

By: Robert Wringham
April 5, 2013


“Within a few years,” STEWART LEE (born 1968) once said, “these jokes as we comedians call them, will have been entirely purged from my work in favour, exclusively, of grinding repetition, embarrassing silence and passive-aggressive monotony.” These are the hallmarks for which this English comic has since become famous and they have become increasingly prominent in his work. He delivers slow, deconstructive, almost Beckettian comedy and — seemingly to his delight — it drives people mad. In recent shows, he reads from a list of unpleasant things said about him by internet trolls: a curmudgeonly backlash that peaked with his brilliant and derogatory routine about a racist BBC magazine programme about cars. But then Lee never set out to be liked, choosing instead to spread confusion among the right people; his earliest inspiration came from a punk band-supporting comedian called Ted Chippington who didn’t worry about making people laugh. In the early ’90s he joined Simon Munnery to create Cluub Zarathustra, an underground dadaist cabaret in which stand-up was forsaken for operatic insults and jelly buffets. Even when he and Richard Herring joined forces on TV, they baffled us with such set pieces as “The Curious Orange” (a talking orange whose questions educated Lee would answer) and “The Organ Gang” (a parodic Saturday morning cartoon about bodily organs who live in a pedal bin). Listen: he’s probably the best and most inventive standup comedian in the world at the moment. See him before he gets knighted.


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