I want to find Stewart Lee funny. He’s clever, he’s meta, and he’s not popular enough to count as mainstream so liking him still has a certain cache.
I read his book a while ago when he talked about zooming out from the comedy so you can see the writing in the margins. I can see where he was going with that. I listened to his bit about how he could be a librarian but you’d have to understand how traditional librarians operated in order to really ‘get’ how his brand of librarianism worked. That was pretty funny. I enjoy the quasi-confessional, quasi-therapeutic moments with Lee discussing his method with Armando Iannucci on Comedy Vehicle (although latterly some bloke in glasses because Iannucci appears to be busy with Veep these days.) I appreciated that.
The problem is that I kind of don’t find Lee funny. I cast no aspersions on his artistic integrity or intelligence. He clearly has both in abundance. But I can’t really get over the fact that for every 7 minutes of performance there’s approximately 45 seconds worth of actual material.
The past 25 minutes have cemented this for me. Because I’ve had a tough day at work, & I decided to have a few drinks this evening. I am, as a matter of fact, slightly tipsy. And I’ve realised that I have laughed more in the past 25 minutes at Stewart Lee than I ever have before. Stewart Lee is funnier when I’m pissed. Which is usually the mark of a substandard comedian. Lee got funnier the drunker I got. I *want* to like him, but the evidence suggests that in order to do so I have to engage with him on the same terms as I would with, say, Russell Howard.
I don’t get that with Richard Herring. He tells better jokes about exponential mathematics. And the drunker I get when watching Herring, the less I realise I’m understanding. I find that funny.