The new series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle began last night and marks the return to television of one of the – arguably – finest stand-up comedians in Britain today. Lee freely admits that he styles himself on the late, great, Dave Allen whose shows were – in format – quite similar and I can see the influence of Allen in Comedy Vehicle but I’m afraid Lee just wasn’t as funny or sardonic as Allen.
Not that Lee wasn’t funny at all, he definitely was, but as I say, by comparison, Dave Allen would win hands down in my opinion.
Each of the six episodes in the series will see Stewart exploring a different theme in a stand-up routine, illustrated with sketches featuring an ensemble cast.
In this first episode, Stewart took to pieces the phenomenon of ‘toilet books’. Where did they come from? And why?
The BBC’s own ‘blurb’ for Lee’s new series reads like this: “What does it say about our culture that the word toilet can be appended to the word ‘book’ to form the compound word toilet book? Toilet seat, yes. Toilet paper, yes. Toilet duck – you can even have toilet duck. But toilet book – surely not?”
Well apparently, yes, there are ‘toilet books’ and Stewart Lee takes exception to them. He considers toilet books are primarily the auto-biographical kind, though he dedicated a fair sized chunk of the show to having a dig at Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ too.
His stand-up routine was punctuated with – I thought – rather pointless and not very funny sketches from his supporting cast of comedians including Tony Law, Tara Flynn, Paul Putner, Kevin Eldon, Miles Jupp, Simon Munnery, Job Angus and Michael Redmond. Peter Serafinowicz provided the ‘voiceover’ job.
Lee is without doubt funny; sarcasm and pi** taking are funny, as are insults on occasion and he seemed to reserve the latter for Chris Moyles’ book, ‘The Difficult Second Book’ which is a title, according to Lee, that “suggests a degree of irony and self-awareness largely missing from the text itself”. Oucha magowcha.
He was similarly scornful of Davina McCall’s statement on the cover that reads, “Butt-clenchingly honest”. This of course gives massive scope to a stand-up routine in which the word ‘toilet’ features large.
Russell Brand’s ‘My Booky Wook’ was on the receiving end of a verbal bashing too… “You can read Russell Brand’s book and dismiss it as rubbish if you like. Or you can dismiss it as rubbish without reading it to save time” said Lee. And I’d certainly take the latter part of that advice.
I did find his comments about ‘My Dangerous Life With So Solid Crew’ by rapper Asher D exceptionally funny. He questioned why the book contains dozens of pictures of the author in different hats. I believe in the trade that would be called ‘filling out’.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter wasn’t left out of his diatribe, nor was anything Jeremy Clarkson has ever penned, and Stewart ultimately concluded that, “A man who’d read everything today would be more stupid than a man who’d read nothing”
Can’t say I agree on that point and having never read any of the books he went to great lengths to take the mickey out of, I can’t comment about that aspect, but overall, while it was extremely funny in places, I wouldn’t necessarily stay in purposely to watch the Comedy Vehicle on its next outing, though I would probably go along for the ride if I’d nothing else to do.