Most of my “real” friends have never heard of Stewart Lee. Or Comedy Vehicle. But my friends in the comedy scene look upon it with great reverence. And rightly so. When it was announced that the BBC had commissioned a second series, we couldn’t contain our excitement. Well, we pretended we could so as not to embarrass ourselves by looking like excited girls in front of all the other “cool” comedy geeks, but we were all really wanted to whoop and dance with glee. And squeal a bit.
If you haven’t seen it before, here is a great clip from the first series.
Bob and Richard couldn’t make the Wednesday show, so I had two tickets to get rid of. I never thought it would be so hard to offer people free tickets to see Stew, but it was a bit of a trial. My brother was going to come but since his mobile phone stopped working it’s been difficult to get hold of him, so eventually I managed to give my spare ticket to my friend Marco. he did tell me that he didn’t “get” a lot of comedy so I was slightly worried as Stew isn’t really an “entry level” comedian. I needn’t have worried though because within 10 minutes of the show I was worried that at any moment he would accidentally spit a mouthful of beer over the person in front of him. (Incidentally I ended up sitting behind Sideshow Bob which I found rather typical and irritating.
So I got there again with plenty time to spare and was again right at the front of the queue. I had decided to wear my Richard Herring “Virgilio Anderson” t-shirt as some sort of subversive act. Marco and Rob joined me and we got into the bar rather quickly. Now, as I said, they have a TV set up in the bar so that anyone who can’t get into the live recording has the option of watching it, but they had set out the seats in rows already which, bearing in mind how packed the bar was yesterday seemed like a mistake. However the bar seemed much quieter which was weird. However within 15 minutes it was heaving. They had been letting people into the venue much slower this time which certainly helped the congestion at the bar.
We got seats in the third row; the same row as yesterday, but this time towards the left and much more face on to where Stew was standing. This time, the camera he would address the viewer was stage front rather that stage left which was just in front of where we were sitting. The first part of the first set was a routine we saw yesterday about moving to the countryside, and this time his imaginary conversation with the estate agent took a rather different direction. Next was a discussion about how comedy today is different to comedy in the ’80s: “In the ’80s all the comedians hated the Tories, now they hate their electrical appliances”, as well as a great routine about Al Qaeda, and how he finds them rude – “I can’t bear them.”
This set was enlivened by 3 walkouts. Now I’ve since seen it reported on Twitter that people had stormed out, but in reality I think they were simply desperate for a wee. Stew however had a lot of fun with this with a very bemused response about having never, in all his days, seen people walk out of a TV recording. One was bad enough, but by the time the third guy tried to sneak out in a rather optimistic hunched way, the audience erupted with laughter. Stew later told us that he would try to include this in the final edit, as it would make a change form the usual Live At The Apollo cutaways where you see Lulu pissing herself! He finished this set with a song I wrote about in my last Stew blog about hack lines used by lazy comedians.
The interval came and went. Rather uneventful. Nothing to report.
The first half of the second set was his long story about his grandad and his love of crisps again. Stew seemed distracted and we could see the odd smile and smirk on his face. He stopped the routine for a few minutes and picked up an empty bag of crisps from the front row of the audience and said he had to move it as whenever he saw it he had to stop himself laughing. The end of the night saw a long story about how he thought he was friends with David Cameron when he was a student and how he organised pop groups for parties held by himself and other Bullingdon club members. This was a lower key set with fewer laughs and more poignancy but when they did come it was really worth the wait.
In fact you need patience when you see Stewart Lee. He delights in his silences, and pauses far longer than any “normal” comedian. This of course, as well as the anticipation of the punchline is often funnier than the punchlines themselves!
At the end of the show someone in the front row (not sure it was the same person with the crisps) dropped their glass, which smashed on the floor. Stew asked for it not to be cleared up so they could get a close up and asked the person to stay in their seats at the end to get a close up of their feet.
A very funny, unusual, odd and satisfying night.
Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle will be broadcast at some point in the future. I’m guessing spring time. Watch it!