It's no joke being part of Stewart Lee's act

When comedians make critics the subject of their stand-up, it rarely ends well

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The Independent Culture

“Did you know you’re in Stewart Lee’s new show?” It’s a message to make the most hardened journalist’s blood run icy.

Critics reviewing comedians is fine; the other way round rarely ends nicely. Tim Minchin was famously so incensed by a one-star review in The Guardian, he wrote a whole song about it. (“Just wanna say, Phil Daoust/ I know it must be really hard to be a journal-oust… So maybe you should quit and get a job that you'd be better at/ Like killing yourself.”) It has 608,544 hits on YouTube.

The first message came back in August from an old colleague and they have been trickling in, one or two a week, ever since – from schoolfriends, Twitter followers, Lee fans and the like. This week I finally gave into curiosity and went to see A Room with a Stew at Leicester Square Theatre. A year ago in that same theatre I had squirmed with sympathy as he laid into the Daily Telegraph’s critic for a bad review. Lee has had the odd beef with The Independent in the past but what had I said recently to annoy the comedians’ comedian sufficiently to make it into his act?

Nothing, as it turned out. I am mentioned, briefly, in the show, in a section where Lee “quotes” some fake reviews of his new act. ’Superb’, said Alice Jones of The Independent. 'Like an Islamophobic Dapper Laughs.' It’s an odd thing to sit in a theatre and hear it rock with laughter, sort of at your expense. But when it comes to Lee, a grandmaster of grudges and evisceration, it could have been a lot worse. I could have been Rod Liddle, who gets quite a comprehensive kicking – in all of his body parts. In the end, Lee surely did not intend it, but I was secretly quite thrilled.

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