Stewart Lee's 2012 show had already had quite an airing before it came to The Assembly Rooms for the Fringe. This is stand-up slathered in a whole dollop of marmite and marks Lee's move further down the road of post-modern anti-comedy. This show is for fans of Stewart Lee and for fans of stand-up; do not go for an hour of frivolous laughs. You will be challenged, shouted at and have to watch Lee appear to break down slightly on stage. It's for comic effect, honest.
Lee is famous for polarising audiences and alienating the mainstream with his dry, problematic comedy. He uses his bad reviews as content, and chooses the most scathing of remarks to advertise his show in an attempt to dissuade those who will not mesh with his dark, complicated routines. The show masquerades as an hour and twenty minutes of Lee complaining about how little material he has; 'I have nothing, I drive kids around all day,' becomes a weary and bleak ostinato. Intelligent and obscure laughs are to be had from this: Lee complains that the public want him to do jokes about Islam and promptly demonstrates why he does not. There are slick callbacks, cynical and topical observations but mainly a lot of moaning about the venue.
The Big Four of the Fringe venues have been slated by Lee in recent press for, 're-pointing the fragile but functioning ecosystem of the Fringe.' To this he makes constant referral throughout the show, and he also makes it very clear that he’s not delighted to have moved from The Stand, his usual venue, to The Assembly Rooms. This commentary takes a decidedly nasty tone when Lee simply turns on the audience, 'the kind of people who come to The Assembly Rooms at the weekend won't like this joke.' There is a particularly dark middle section in which Lee deconstructs the audience's inability to understand his humour, 'you are of a disparate ability stream,' and there were some walkouts, which Lee revelled in, 'It'll be better now that he's gone.' Although it is expected of Lee to snub his crowd, it felt as though this section of the show was overindulgent and should have been better balanced. It’s a shame the crowd from The Stand weren’t there to laugh in all the silences, it may have somewhat improved the tone.
This show will shout and scream right up in your face, and won't let you sit back and relax for an evening of enjoyment. For fans of Lee, this is as bleak and uncompromising as you might expect from him and as always is intelligent and alternative. A dark and difficult evening of comedy; enter at your own peril.