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Review: Stewart Lee, Carpet Remnant World, York Theatre Royal
What was the overarching feeling following Stewart Lee’s Carpet Remnant World? It was exhaustion. It is a relentless bombardment of sophisticated, crafted comedy and scrutinising of his audience.
Claiming he has no new material because his life consists of nothing more than watching Scooby Doo with his son and driving to gigs, Lee opts for a studious exploration of the art of comedy itself. The homogeneity of observational anecdotes was pulverised and every joke was deconstructed with masterly precision.
His entrance (rock music, synchronised lighting and a smoke machine) mocked “big entrances” of contemporary comics; he purposely told bad or overly long jokes to test people’ sensibilities and his deadpan snobbery and manipulative wrong-footing always kept him one step ahead. He expects everyone to work hard for their laughs; they are permanently under his judging gaze. His well-known techniques and intransigence form a series of in-jokes that help Lee separate the “Jimmy Carr crowd”.
It was not just punters and other comics – poor Michael McIntyre, Frankie Boyle, Russell Kane and even Bill Hicks – however who felt the brisance: he read out abusive comments from his fiercest internet detractors to a jazz backing track. He sublimely blended the sardonic and irascible with tongue-in-cheek.
A more professional and consummate craftsman in stand-up cannot be found. Stewart Lee’s razor-sharp anti-comedy makes Carpet Remnant World a staggeringly funny and intricate addition to his impressive back catalogue.
More than that, it is an experience; a gruelling one, both emotionally and – bizarrely – physically, but hugely rewarding.