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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Stewart Lee - St David's Hall, Cardiff. March 4th 2011

You know before I begin that this little review will be biased and enthusiastic. You know full well that Stewart Lee is one of my "heroes". You also know, if you know who Stew is and what he does, that he's not everybody's cup of tea...

I went to see his latest show, Vegetable Stew, with two friends; one older than me and one younger. Neither really enjoyed the show very much, as far as I can tell. I, however, believed it to be hilarious. The show is a "work in progress" for a show which, due to the postponement of the show show in October, has already been filmed for BBC2. 

Tackling charity and government in his trademark repetitive, plodding, pause-filled, rhythmic style Stew once again takes pot shots at some of the most unusual victims. His cynical views on Russell Howard's agenda behind his charity work take the audience on a giggle-some guilt-ride which much of the room, including me, found side-splitting. A Stewart Lee audience is a wonderfully interesting thing - it has pockets of different types of people. Stew is the embodiment of the saying "you can't please all of the people all of the time". But Stew doesn't want to! He wants to leave people behind and have them feel as though they need to catch up.

As with most of Stew's shows he loses the audience with some very dangerous material about the IRA, a wonderful story about his days at Oxford where he became David Cameron's friend "for a few weeks" and crisps. Lots of crisps. It's a method that Stew - and only Stew - can really pull off. Losing and audience and winning them back is what makes Stewart Lee such a unique performer. There is nobody quite like him out there, even now, even after his twenty-odd years in the business. I laughed all night - I smiled inwardly at just how much respect I have for this man. He really is an inspiration. He's my Ted Chippington. 

But he's not everyone's idea of what a comedian should be. Michael McIntyre he is not. He is, you could say, the antidote to the comedy we have thrust upon us now. Stewart Lee's material is comedy as cooked by Heston Blumenthal - he's an artist. He deconstructs each and every nuance of his own routine, informing the audience in advance that he has few jokes and much of his material simply doesn't work! But it does. So well. 

The show was incredible. And, as usual, Stew hung about after the show to meet the crowd and sign books and DVDs. They say you should never meet your heroes. Well, I'm so happy that I did!