DVD Review: Stewart Lee: If You Would Prefer A Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One
Stewart Lee is generally considered among his fans and peers to be one of the best working comics of his generation, and this new DVD offering stands out as his best release to date. Having seen the show both live on tour at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and the recording from Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre – the city where Lee has recorded all his stand up releases – I can unequivocally state you’ll not find a better stand up DVD among this year’s raft of Christmas releases.
It’s probably a bold claim to make when Lee is held up against the big guns of this year like John Bishop, Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, but I stand by it completely. The latter comedian provides a springboard and one of the few driving themes of this show, after Boyle claimed that comedians lose their anger and focus when they reach their 40’s and should quit stand up.
41 year old Lee disagrees, giving his antagonist, the young hotshot 38 year old Boyle, a lesson in angry stand up, railing against corperations and big businesses in the way Lee does best. It’s his offbeat, repetitive, deliberately slow and clunky delivery that makes Lee such a brilliant act, as he sneaks the big laughs into his broken down, frustrated delivery until you’ve can’t even comprehend why you’re in tears of laughter at the idea of a pirate adventure activity centre.
I’ll be honest to admit when I first discovered Lee, long after his days in a double act with fellow comedian Richard Herring, I couldn’t quite get his style – being too young to appreciate his subtle delivery I watched his first two live DVD releases without thinking much of them. Having seen his other work back since becoming a convert I now know and understand the brilliance of Lee’s work, which makes me wonder whether I’ll look back at some of the new mainstream TV ‘Apollo‘ type comedians in 10 years time and finally appreciate their stuff.
Lee rounds off this comedy masterclass with his possibly infamous routine on BBC2’s Top Gear, and Richard Hammond in particular. Some of the material in this routine landed him in trouble with the media last year and in If You Would Prefer A Milder Comedian… Lee plays up to this fantastically. He gets away with saying contentious things by using the very people he’s mocking as a precedent for his own comments – Lee is a comedy and technical genuis.
As the arc of the show reaches it’s conclusion and Lee gives us the big finish (which I dare anyone not to be doubled up pained with laughter over) he comes on for a final encore and treats us to a song in attempt to tackle the last tabboo in comedy – I’ll say no more, other than you’ll have to buy the DVD and watch it, because it represents everything brilliant about Stewart Lee.