Stewart Lee

By: Robert Wringham
April 5, 2013

stewart-lee

“Within a few years,” STEWART LEE (born 1968) once said, “these jokes as we comedians call them, will have been entirely purged from my work in favour, exclusively, of grinding repetition, embarrassing silence and passive-aggressive monotony.” These are the hallmarks for which this English comic has since become famous and they have become increasingly prominent in his work. He delivers slow, deconstructive, almost Beckettian comedy and — seemingly to his delight — it drives people mad. In recent shows, he reads from a list of unpleasant things said about him by internet trolls: a curmudgeonly backlash that peaked with his brilliant and derogatory routine about a racist BBC magazine programme about cars. But then Lee never set out to be liked, choosing instead to spread confusion among the right people; his earliest inspiration came from a punk band-supporting comedian called Ted Chippington who didn’t worry about making people laugh. In the early ’90s he joined Simon Munnery to create Cluub Zarathustra, an underground dadaist cabaret in which stand-up was forsaken for operatic insults and jelly buffets. Even when he and Richard Herring joined forces on TV, they baffled us with such set pieces as “The Curious Orange” (a talking orange whose questions educated Lee would answer) and “The Organ Gang” (a parodic Saturday morning cartoon about bodily organs who live in a pedal bin). Listen: he’s probably the best and most inventive standup comedian in the world at the moment. See him before he gets knighted.

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HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Roger Corman, Agnetha Faltskog, Joe Meek.

READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–73).

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What do you think?

  1. Nice one Robert. He’s our second great S.Lee hero….It’s always a source of great relief to me when I wake up in the morning and remember that I’m not Stewart Lee. It sets me up for the day nicely.

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