Review: Stewart Lee at Cambridge Corn Exchange - the most intelligent stand-up and wittiest wordsmith of his generation

PUBLISHED: 09:28 15 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:28 15 May 2017

Stewart Lee brings his Content Provider tour to Cambridge this month.

Stewart Lee brings his Content Provider tour to Cambridge this month.

Archant

With his award-winning BBC TV series being cancelled and the BBC’s funding instead ploughed into a remake of Are you being served (well, according to this showanyway), Stewart Lee has returned to his roots and thrown himself into a punishing tour schedule starting in June 2016 taking him all the way through to April 2018.

While the title Content Provider was chosen to reflect the key theme of the show – an embittered late forty-something liberal pouring scorn and vitriol on an increasingly fragmented and “digital” world – the timing ensured that Brexit and Trump would inevitably get a mention.

Much has been made in the press, and by Lee himself, about people walking out of this show. And, sure enough, within moments of arriving on stage in Cambridge, Lee launched into an expletive-ridden tirade against Brexit supporters which some might find offensive but Lee was clearly among friends here in remain-majority Cambridge. In fact, anyone daring to even leave their seat mid performance prompted such a personal verbal assault from Lee that I’m sure many thought twice about even visiting the bathroom let alone walking out.

While Stewart Lee is described as “the comedian’s comedian” he is quite unlike any other stand-up today. Though his main routine consists of a venomous attack on a whole number of topics: Game of Thrones, politics, trip advisor reviewers, people under 40, other stand-up comedians, he adds a witty additional layer which gives the audience a narrative on the show itself, making the true target Lee himself.

Indeed, it’s the continual moving in and out of the show’s main routine, and the commentary about the show itself and what is happening in the moment (mainly from audience interaction), that requires a greater level of concentration and commitment from the audience.

He divides the audience into those who “get it” and those who don’t, knowing that each member will consider themselves one of the wise. This makes it a far more involving and ultimately entertaining night out than a normal evening of comedy.

Ironically, while he lays into other comedians for their on-stage personae, it was Lee’s physical comedy, such as his demonstration of people under 40’s relationship with their mobile phones, which achieved some of the biggest laughs of the evening.

Lee is clearly the most intelligent stand-up and wittiest wordsmith of his generation, and had the very audience that he had spent most of the evening attacking, eating out the palm of his hand. He is provocative to the max. But had me literally crying with laughter at various points in the 90 minute show, and the fact that I couldn’t tell what was improv and what was routine. Dying to see it again.

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