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The one about Stewart Lee

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Stewart Lee

THIS is posting about the Stewart Lee gig in Northampton. It first appeared as a column in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo. I also reviewed once of his excellent books here, we did a bit of audio about it in His N Hers 7 here. Stewart Lee performed in Northampton at the start of the month. He is the current best British comedian, as voted for in the British Comedy Awards. But what does this mean?

He’s the champion comedian, the high overlord of British comedy, the supreme exalted bringer of merriment to the realm… but does it mean, at a very basic level, that he is funny?

I would say so, but I have a reputation for slightly left-field tastes and not necessarily in a good way.

Almost all my friends tend to take an endorsement from me as a sign that they should be wary of the item/person in question and that there is probably a simpler and more down-to-earth alternative somewhere else.

There is probably no clearer indicator that Britain is somehow broken than the fact that a comedian I like has somehow become acknowledged as the best in the country.

These are strange times indeed.

But as Hunter Thompson said, ‘when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro’ and not only was Stewart Lee performing in Northampton but he had sold out Derngate, the town’s biggest indoor venue (unless you count the bus station and no-one sells out the bus station, no siree).

Alan Moore was in the audience; a writer who would get mainstream culture in a headlock and make it cry if you so much as took your eye off him for a second.

What has the world come to when its Lees and Moores are taking their pleasures in venues that were once the stamping ground of the likes of Jim Davidson?

My One True Love and I didn’t waste too much time wondering and got ourselves along to the show, which was called Carpet Remnant World.

It’s very difficult to judge what might be counted as a spoiler when describing a Stewart Lee performance.

Jokes – as he will readily admit himself – are not really what his comedy is about.

He came on stage looking like a survivor from the Battle of Thermopylae, if the 300 soldiers defending the pass against the Persians had actually been the novelty teddy-boy popsters Showaddywaddy and not a bunch of buff Spartans.

But he is a kind of ancient geek hero, capable and willing to have a go at the Frankie Boyles and Jeremy Clarksons of this world but without sounding like a whining do-goody funspoiler.

He spent a fair amount of time declaring that in terms of material he had nothing. He blamed this on the amount of time he spent looking after his four-year-old, which for a man, he admitted, meant watching endless episodes of Scooby Doo.

I shrank into my seat in a shame of recognition.

He nominated a small section of the audience as his real fans and identified the rest of us as the ones who had turned up because he had got on the telly for having an award.

“Don’t worry,” he reassured his hardcore support “they’ll be gone soon.”

The whole act was pulled together thematically in the finale as he attempted to derive something meaningful from his long drives to venues around the country, passing souless retail parks and heading home to more re-runs of Scooby Doo.

Amid the World of Leather, Furniture World and Office Worlds he had discovered another place, near Sunderland – Carpet Remnant World – which seemed to symbolically offer hope for a world that accepted all sizes, shapes, wefts and hues.

Funny and touching.

By coincidence I happened to be in Sunderland at the start of the week so I Googled the company, hoping to Tweet an amusing picture of myself outside Carpet Remnant World for the enjoyment of My One True Love.

I went to the address that came up but there was no carpet superstore: it was an office block. I went in and asked if they used to be Carpet Remnant World and the receptionist raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“The company has been dissolved and we are the accountants handling their affairs,” she explained.

So there is no carpet remnant shop any more, but I don’t think we should tell Stu. That place meant the world to him…

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