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ED FRINGE REVIEW Stewart Lee, A Room with a Stew

★★★★★

Stewart Lee made his name in the mid-nineties as one half of radio duo Lee and Herring, but today he is best known for his BBC Two stand-up series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle.


A Room With A Stew is a way for Stewart Lee to test new material, most of which will make it into the fourth series of his BAFTA nominated BBC Two series, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, which began in 2009 and will return Spring 2016 for a fourth (and possibly final) series.

The show is very much a work in progress, and with 180 minutes worth of material ready to go, Stewart only uses 70 minutes of it in Edinburgh, meaning that no two shows are ever the same.


Stewart Lee isn’t, never has been, and never will be a traditional stand-up. Each joke is deconstructed in such a way that you can’t just sit back and let it wash over you, and that's what I admire about him as a performer.


He began the show by informing us that as he was 5 minutes late, (probably down to the fact there were A LOT of people to get into the Assembly Hall), the show would end at 3:30pm instead of 3:25pm and that it was a 70 minute show, with a 10 minute opener and two 30 minute segments.


He made it very clear that this is a work-in-progress and that he's still deciding what to include into his next series of Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle. So much so that he was undecided as to what the second half will be about, the options were 'Urine' or 'Islamaphobia'.


Before that, he had some other business to attend to... Graham Norton, who beat him to win the Best Comedy BAFTA earlier on this year. But he's fine with it, he doesn't care. And by "doesn't care" he means cares a great deal and spends the best part of 20 minutes explaining why he should have won the BAFTA instead of Graham Norton. Whilst told in jest, I can't help but feel that there is some truth there, and Stewart Lee genuinely can't understand why he didn't win.


What Stewart has always done really well, is interact with the audience, sure he's not nice to them, but somehow that has them eating out of the palm of his hands even more. Today he told someone in the front row off for looking at his watch, he told the left side of the audience that they didn't "get him" and that's why they're not laughing and had a mini-breakdown when just over halfway through the show a couple decided that enough was enough and ran out the door.


Luckily I was on the right hand side, the side that "got him", but that didn't stop him having a go. Oh no, he said that this was the worst audience he'd ever had and even told us where we went wrong. He'd tell us that we laughed at the wrong moment and that we clapped when we should have laughed, and that we were a bit slow.


If this was any other comedian, I'm not sure they'd be able to get away with it but there's something about Stewart's charm that makes the moments he rips into the audience

All in all it was an outstanding show and a great start to my Fringe experience this year. The one downside (but not worth him losing a star over) was when he made a joke about the high suicide rate amongst comedians, and essentially blaming us (a bad audience) for Robin Williams' death.


Aside from that it was an absolute pleasure to see him live and I'd highly recommend going to see him.


A Room With A Stew runs in Edinburgh, at The Assembly Rooms (Venue 20) until Sunday 30th August

A Room With A Stew will also tour at the Leicester Square Theatre season in London from September 2015 until January 2016 before moving onto Marathon Nights at the South Bank.

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