Stewart Lee Press


30 March - 23 April 2000
Melbourne Town Hall Corner Collins and Swanston Streets, Melbourne

"I'm trying out new material tonight... it's like testing make-up by squirting it into the eyes of little rabbits. That's how I see you... and I want you all to think of me as a scary scientist."

As you can tell, British comedian Stewart Lee's stage persona is very acid. Cynical and a touch aggressive, he treads a fine line between co-opting and alienating his audience. He is very funny because he does this so well. We laugh partly through nervousness, sensing he doesn't suffer fools gladly and might turn his attention to us next.

His material addresses some disparate themes. He talks us through the brilliant retorts we should have made but actually think of hours later... in his case it always ends with misunderstandings and the police becoming involved.
A sequence based on the notion of an infinite number of monkeys producing William Shakespeare's works takes some twisted turns: on opening night even Lee was surprised when his sinister deduction about Australians' relationships with monkeys was undermined by his audience victim actually being from the UK.

This just proves the risky nature of stand-up, and the comedian took it in his stride.
Like Adam Bloom, Lee goes meta-theatrical from time to time, musing on the show's structure, why we're reacting the way we are, what's working or not. This can be funny but mostly slows things down unless it's a really incisive observation.

A major characteristic of Lee's act is his suddenly quiet, sensitive build-up to an issue that he's then monumentally insensitive about. As the audience gets used to this, they laugh in anticipation. It's a good example of the licence we give comedians to express the darker side of human nature so we can laugh with conspiratorial glee.

If Bloom is an angelic type performing in the bowels of the Town Hall, Stewart Lee is his demonic counterpart up in the roof. Make the ascent if you dare.

Reviewed by Tim Richards.

Source - Stage Left