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Telford's Stewart Lee talks ahead of Birmingham show

Birmingham | Entertainment | Published:

The reviews have all been of the five-star variety.

Former Telford man Stewart Lee spent four years writing his latest works – a TV show called Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle and a new tour called Content Provider.

The tour is the comedian's first new full-length show since the award-winning Carpet Remnant World. He'll bring it to Birmingham's Symphony Hall on Monday and Tuesday.

And previous shows have seen critics swoon. The Times offered a five star review and wrote: "The most consistently funny show of his brilliant career . . . I laughed until it hurt."

The Mail on Sunday offered a similar rating and said: "Two marvellous misanthropic hours . . . there's no-one else to touch him."

Others have described the show as 'characteristically twisty and frequently brilliant' and 'venomously funny'.

Content Provider was published as a book and Stewart is delighted that people have enjoyed it.

"My new book, Content Provider, annotates and explains a selection of short and supposedly comic prose pieces, all written over the past five years," he says.

"During the period covered, various characters came and went from political life. Who can even remember Tory party chairman Grant Shapps now? Others gradually became ever more significant and by February last year, when the book ends, were positioned to be major players in the decisive swing of the fatal one-way cat-flap of Brexit.

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"In March 2014, I imagined Sarah Vine proudly raising a status-confirming toilet brush, flecked with excrement. Who could have known that one day her husband, Michael Gove, would almost have been that triumphant bathroom accessory, and she the plastic holder cradling it?

"The landscape Content Provider described is suddenly gone, its key players either discarded in post-Brexit's Brabantia bin, or grown unimaginably powerful in its wake, and the values the book holds self-evident are threatened as never before. This extract from the introduction describes the circumstances that led to my unlikely late-life newspaper columnist side-career. I've no idea, at this point in time, how anything I learned will be useful in this strange new world…"

Stewart, who was born in Wellington but raised in Solihull by adoptive parents, started doing standup in the late 80s and got his first paid gig in September 1989, at the Bedford Pub in Balham, south London. He was 21 when he became a semi-professional stand-up. The first time he got asked to write funny columns was for a short-lived comedy magazine.

"Maybe I was in deep cover. Maybe I still am. I don't know. Whatever, I wish I was still 12 stone and sickly and could smoke a pack of cigarettes before breakfast without throwing up.

"Deadpan folded after a year and I don't remember any of the funny columns I got asked to write by any other outlet being much good at all for the next decade or so. That doesn't necessarily mean they weren't. I can't remember much about the decade of the 90s.

"I was drunk for a lot of it, and then depressed towards the end, I think, in retrospect. It's all a haze of London comedy-club cellars viewed from the stage through a jazz photograph pre-smoking-ban fug; motorway service stations in Doppler effect from the transit van windows on loss-making tours with the Stewart Lee & Richard Herring double act, where big theatre gigs with our big promoter made me less than my usual solo slots on pub-cellar mixed bills paid me alone; people arguing in hotel bars and Little Chefs; intrigue in the toilets at the Comedy Cafe in pre-hipster Old Street, its upstairs room the London circuit's unofficial social club in those fondly remembered long, late Saturday nights of the early 90s, Roger Mann on his hands and knees, pulling faces from behind a sofa; me going deaf at rock'n'roll gigs in Camden and Harlesden and Islington and Manette Street and Charing Cross Road. Polvo! Yo La Tengo!! The Fall!!!"

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