Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, TV review: Stewart Lee's guilt trip makes for a brilliantly rude awakening

 

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The Independent Culture

It’s almost impossible to review Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (Saturday, BBC2), the meta-stand-up show which has returned for a third series, because Stewart Lee is his own best critic; he’s already done the hard work for us.

So, as he put it, this episode was both “weaving magic out of thin air” and “some sort of elitist prank”. It was, most of all, “the sound of the middle class applauding their own guilt”. Cheers, Stew. I might nip downstairs for a cup of tea, while you finish up here?

SLCV also requires no introduction, because if you’re one of those guilt-applauding Independent-reading liberals that Stewart Lee appeals to, you’ll already know and admire the semi-masochistic pleasure of his abrasive style. And if not, then you’re unlikely to be made to feel welcome. By the end of this half-hour show, Lee had his back to the studio audience, having become engrossed in a mimed phone conversation with an imaginary patron of a made-up business. It was very clever, very funny and also the height of rudeness.

Last series introduced the “hostile interrogator”, helping Lee to get away with such spectacular slights to his devoted fans by bringing him down a peg or two. This series, these short scenes intercut with the stand-up marked the return to TV of British comedy’s most enigmatic satirist, Chris Morris. He’d always acted as SLCV’s script editor, but in this series he’s emerging from the shadows to take over from Armando Iannucci as Lee’s Paxman-style foe.

This comedy about comedy would be unforgivably self-indulgent if Lee wasn’t just as incisive on every other facet of modern life as he is on his own comedic genius. Last series included episodes titled “Charity”, “Identity” and “Democracy”;  this episode memorably summed up Twitter as “a state surveillance agency staffed by gullible volunteers” and Vodafone’s Digital Parenting guide as “the fox’s guide to chicken security”.

There’s nothing more to add, is there? Especially since any and all criticisms of Lee risk being co-opted into the advertising for his next tour. Or at the very least included in the exhaustive “Online Critiques” list he keeps on his website, detailing every rude thing anyone has ever said about him.

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