Rating: 4 stars
I had a blip with Stewart Lee a few years ago. I loved Fist of Fun and TWRNJ in my 20s, but when I saw two minutes of the first series of Comedy Vehicle in 2009, I hated it so much that I decided I hated Stewart Lee. I don’t know why I hated it. Stuff going on, the start of worrying that things weren’t right with mum, being distracted from my usual appreciation of cynicism as an art form. Perhaps too much hummus and Guardian reading.
Happily, I agreed to watch the first episode of the second series of Comedy Vehicle and remembered that I didn’t hate Stewart Lee. I’ve seen him live twice since then and he gave me face ache from laughing too much.
I picked this book out from my husband’s bookcase because I wanted to find out what had happened in the years between TWRNJ and Comedy Vehicle. It’s an excellent mix of autobiography and deconstruction of the three key shows that marked his unretirement. I like his style of delivery, as well as his futile rages and surreal interludes. I even like his sneery tone because, of course, he isn’t sneering at me. No. Not at me. It was like he was reading it to me inside my head which, if I still hated him, would have been irksome.
The most interesting aspect of the book is the way Lee considers and ruminates on the nature of comedy, what makes something funny, why some people take offence, and gives an insight into how he has constructed his current comedic persona. Will Self sort of interviewed him in The Guardian as the fourth series of Comedy Vehicle started this year, which gives a quick overview of Lee’s career to date. If you’re new to Lee and that interview makes you want to find out more, give the book a whirl.
If you are already familiar with Lee and don’t like him, this book is best avoided. At least until you realise your mistake and start liking him. Then you may read it.