As Lee steps onto the stage of the packed-out 350 seat basement of the Leicester Square Theatre he tells us that there will be three jokes throughout the show, the audience laugh but those of us that have seen him before know that he’s not lying.
Stewart Lee’s style is one of brilliantly nuanced repetition, seemingly inane ramblings that travel through logic into the absurd. It would perhaps be easy to miss one of Lee’s trio of jokes among all this so to help everyone along he even signposts the jokes, warning us just before he tells one and even telling us the stance he’s going to take on stage as he tells it. It is the deconstruction and analysis of a standup routine that invariably forms the crux of any Stewart Lee standup routine and is always brilliantly executed and painfully funny.
Throughout the set, which lasts a little over an hour, a couple of lines fell a bit flat. This never perturbed Lee and represents one of the unique and arguably best aspects of Stewart Lee as a stand up, he doesn’t dilute his routine by dropping material that he genuinely believes is funny regardless of its reception, and his judgement is nearly always impeccable. He stated on stage: “I’m not interested in pleasing my audience, I’m more interested in refining it.”
The three sections the show was divided into were charity, Adrian Chiles and the government. Charity revolved around a bizarre ramble regarding Lee’s (admittedly fictitious) grandfather’s love of crisps and a scathing lampoon of the Mock the Week panel. The Adrian Chiles segment was a rather mixed bag as apparently the BBC had warned Lee that 30 minutes of material could be construed as a prolonged personal attack. Last was government which centred on an experience Lee had with Cameron and the Bullingdon Club whilst at Oxford, marvelously pin-point in its satire.
Lee performed a song on the acoustic guitar before the interval and right at the end, after claiming that having seen Tim Minchin sell tickets at £195 at the O2 Arena and wanting a piece of that action, aiming for an entirely musical set by 2015. The songs were strong and surprisingly well performed and are a welcome addition to his repertoire.
Having seen this routine being refined since June I can attest that it is getting stronger and the BBC series next year should be well worth the long wait since Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle finished on BBC2 in April last year.
Stewart Lee’s Vegetable Stew continues at Leicester Square Theatre until 18th December and there are still plenty of tickets left. Prices range from £15 – £21.50 but if you’re not worried about a high jokes-per-minute ratio the night out is well worth it.