Socialist Worker

Stewart Lee - Carpet Remnant World

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2282

Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee


Stewart Lee has become one of the few alternative comics from the early 1990s to keep his clout.

Today the likes of Jimmy Carr can make jokes about rape and Ricky Gervais can take cheap shots at people with disabilities.

So the fact that Lee has stuck to his guns is refreshing.

His recent BBC 2 show, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, showed that Lee has retained his bitterness at the gutter press, right wing comedians and Jeremy Clarkson.

Carpet Remnant World allows Lee slightly more freedom than this.

Rather than lined-up anecdotes with knock-down punchlines, it’s more of a rambling but effective critique.

The show starts with a quickfire attack which sums up the stupidity of the “war on terror”.

He goes on to talk about demands from racists to start telling jokes about Muslims, before taking up the challenge and dismantling the idea.

But this is also an exploration of comedy. What makes something funny?

Lee mines the lack of inspiration of his “life of childcare and driving between gigs”.

He offers long routines about watching Scooby Doo and driving down the motorway.

He goes on to criticise himself for such mundane material.

The fact that he dissects and subverts today’s standard comedy formula means that a lot of his humour doesn’t rely on one liners or cheap shots.

If the audience doesn’t bite at the route he’s taking, he continues regardless, stretching the joke as far as possible.

He also dwells on the reactions of right wingers to his comedy.

He reads out hate-filled comments about him from reviews and Twitter, turning the tables on those who expend so much rage in condemning him.

Stewart Lee plays an important part in comedy.

Many of today’s much-touted celebrity comedians have fallen back to the era of Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson.

They present sexism, racism, homophobia and jokes about the disabled through the get out clause that “it’s ironic”.

Anyone who challenges this lazy brand of humour is quickly labelled and denounced as being “part of the political correctness brigade”.

Lee goes against the grain—and gets gags out of the absurdity of these ideas.

But he also goes further, and takes on the difficult arguments and viciously sees them out.

What’s wrong with political correctness? he asks.

He has talked about how “political correctness” essentially means that racism and other forms of prejudice become unacceptable in society.

But Lee is anything but a wet liberal. He goes for the jugular, whether it’s over the Dale Farm eviction or the Tories.

That’s why he’s still one of the best things about comedy today.

Carpet Remnant World
Leicester Square Theatre, London,
until February, then touring Britain


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Reviews
Tue 6 Dec 2011, 17:55 GMT
Issue No. 2282
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