Stewart Lee: The “If You Would Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One” EP

Here’s an unexpected treat for fans of the deliberately obtuse and/or audience alienating and/or smug and/or only-worthwhile-comedian-working-in-the-UK-today Stewart Lee: a bitesize follow-up to the painstaking, fascinating and laceratingly self-critical and honest deconstruction of his stand-up act that was How I Escaped My Certain Fate. That book presented transcripts of three of Lee’s recent shows, together with copious footnotes providing really quite penetrating explanations and analyses of the material, and this new slim volume follows exactly the same formula, this time taking as its subject his 2009/10 set If You Would Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One. This is a welcome update: for one thing, by this time Lee’s profile had been significantly raised due to the screening of his BBC series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and his live audience had thus been swelled by people who might well have not been so savvy with his frames of reference and distinctive non-ingratiating MO, and for another this show contains what is probably Lee’s most infamous, and also one of his funniest, routines in which he exposes the laziness and cant inherent in the laddish banter of Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. Interestingly he directs most of his theatrically exaggerated, but undoubtedly real, bile at the stoogeish Hammond rather than the obvious target Clarkson, but his point is made with devastating clarity and no small degree of risk of misinterpretation. If you haven’t seen the routine, you should YouTube it immediately. The footnotes in How I Escaped… were often as compelling as the shows they were annotating, and the same applies here – I particularly enjoyed the sections where Lee describes his deliberate sabotaging of his own material. As in the parent book, the transcript is prefaced with an essay detailing the circumstances of its creation, and you also get an article previously available online in which Lee gives a typically measured and non-apologetic justification for his non-complimentary referencing of superstar comedian Michael McIntyre. As a sidenote, the cover design of the book is very pleasing: the photo is a re-staging of the one on the cover of The Specials’ 1980 EP Too Much Too Young, which is also where the underlining and exclamation marking of the word “Lee” is drawn from. Looking forward to further installments greatly.

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