"Grmmphh." It's Easter Monday morning. The clocks have gone forward, and, on the other end of the phone, Stewart Lee sounds as though his razor-sharp stand-up self is lagging somewhere in Greenwich Mean Time. The comedian is trying to gather some thoughts on his first straight acting role, in Oblomov (right), which went down a storm at last year's Edinburgh Festival, and which begins in London on Tuesday.

"I like the speaking, but I don't like the moving around," he says of his cameo, which involves a memorable synchronised routine to Gina G.

"They like to do warm-ups," he says darkly of the Only Human Theatre Company (which includes the likes of Dan O'Brien and Ben Moor). "I never do that before stand-up. Comedy tends to be better the less you think - it's anti-theatrical."

Adapted from the book by Ivan Goncharov, the play follows the fortunes of idler Oblomov, who dreams away his life from under a duvet, maintaining a slender grasp on global reality through the World Service. Sharkey's script updates the original, setting it in a London filled with post- Thatcherite underachievers.

"I was overwhelmed when I first saw it," says Lee. "It's credible because Stephen's written it around people he knows. London's a place where people come with dreams and often fail to fulfil them. Andy, who plays Spot, came to London to act. In a couple of months he starts work as a milkman. I went through the same stage as a comedian. Now I tend to be the one who sees friends and says `Pull your finger out', and that echoes my role in the play."

When he's not playing Stewart the Successful Stand-up in Oblomov, Lee spends his time script-editing for Harry Hill, performing solo (he's working on a new show for this year's Edinburgh Festival which features a battle between a giant penis and giant whale), or performing with Richard Herring.

The double act has just returned from the Adelaide comedy festival. But he doubts whether Australians would appreciate Oblomov," Lee muses. "They're too bloody happy. It would be like, `Oh, you haven't written your poem? No worries mate. Do it tomorrow'."

Pleasance Theatre, off North Road, London N7 (0171-609 1800/420 0180) Tue to Sun, 8 to 26 Apr, 8pm (5pm Sun) pounds 5-10

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