Friday, 20 May 2011

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle

One of the things I'm enjoying on the tellybox just now is Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle.

The format of the show is a themed stand-up gig by Lee, in a small-ish venue. His act is cut with asides to the camera and the television audience as well as segments of a behind the scenes interview with Comedy God Armando Iannucci. This combinations effectively deconstructs the traditional stand-up set. The show finishes with a sketch or film referring back to some element of the gig's material.

Actually, I say "enjoying" I'm enjoying it but that's not necessarily the right word. Lee's material isn't laugh a minute. Indeed, much of it is designed to make the audience uncomfortable and to question commonly held views and assumptions. The script editor is Chris Morris (Four Lions, Brass Eye, The Day Today) and his influence can be clearly seen. Indeed, if Morris' shtick isn't your thing, then this show is unlikely to be for you. If, however, you like your comedy edgy, subversive and occasionally surreal, dive in.

This subversive approach to the genre is where the programme excels. Lee is at his best when feeding off the nervous energy he can create in a room, milking for every awkward laugh he can achieve whilst subverting the normal aim of genre - getting as many laughs as quickly as possible. He is also a master of comic timing, which the format utilises effectively with his asides to camera. (Speaking of these, the direction and editing of the show is also excellently done.)

For whatever reason I never saw the first series of this show - although can remember seeing bits of it - but this time round I'm hooked. Here's a taster from last week's episode. As it happens, this clip is more conventional stand up as Lee discusses getting his kids into the best local school:


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