Express & Star

Stewart Lee, Birmingham Symphony Hall - review

The stronger his faux contempt for his audience grows, the funnier Stewart Lee becomes.


It is a strange situation Lee finds himself in at this moment in time.

Despite the huge success of his BBC show 'Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle' in terms of viewing figures, DVD sales and Netflix streams, he was told by the broadcaster that they wouldn't be keeping him on for another series.

Instead, money would be ploughed into a remake of Are You Being Served and other dull, lifeless attempts at sitcoms.

However, Telford born Lee is a survivor and has reverted back to what he does best by taking his latest 90 minute show 'Content Provider' on the road.

The first of two nights at Birmingham's Symphony Hall saw Lee attack the audience at every opportunity, blasting them for bringing friends who 'don't get it', demanding that nobody used their phone during the show and painfully explaining his material to those who he felt weren't smart enough to understand it.

Those who already know what to expect from Lee will have revelled in this strange, very British, form of self deprecation.

Only us Brits could pay good money to see a comedian, spend two hours getting insulted by him and still go home happy.

Of course, this wasn't the whole show.

Content Provider touched on Brexit, Trump, social media, Pokemon Go, Game of Thrones and bondage, just to name a few, with everything coming together in a way it is tricky to put your finger on.

It felt to me that the main point of the show was to shine a light on how our obsession with social media fads has stripped away more than one layer of the culture which had previously been our trademark.

Instead of enjoying beautiful works of art, like Caspar David Friedrich's painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, which is often referenced throughout the show, we are looking at selfies on Instagram.

Instead of poets, painters, singers, actors and comedians, we have content providers, offering us watered down, bite-size versions of things we can remember once dearly taking to our hearts.

Lee stands alone against this, giving us a show with immense depth, quality and meaning.

He may pretend to despise his audience, but those who saw what Lee had to offer at the Symphony Hall will no doubt be back next time he visits Birmingham.

There isn't another show out there like his that they can go and see.

By Jordan Harris

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