The noble visitor to Pocket-lint, boasting a heightened awareness of the furtherment of technological accomplishment and a keen love of newness, may feel short-changed by me pushing a DVD of something that they may well have already watched for free, a DVD that fails to showcase the capabilities of their HDTV, but hear me out.
For those of you that missed it, SLCV was one of the TV highlights of the year, frequently astounding and always hilarious, a sharp, acerbic and thought-provoking one-man assault-come-dissection of modern society and its abundant failings.
Essentially 30 minutes of stand-up broken up by sketches, the show starts on soft targets like the vain brain-pourings of the celebrity autobiography, then works its way up to the bigger quarry of the Pope, organised religion and the economic crisis. Yet in this era of Grumpy Old Men, Lee’s beef isn’t fuelled by the resentment that comes with body parts slowly staring to seize up, but seemingly from a loftier dissatisfaction with how we’re progressing as a species.
Despite having the potential for condescension, Stewart Lee’s material is leagues away from his peers, able to play with their clichés without being affected by them. Like many before him, Lee muses on the demise of Woolworths and the legendary pick n mix, but rather than playing it for cheap laughs he weaves it into an elaborate riff that fails to be infected by any lameness that would have crept in with lesser comics.
It’s the way that he expertly slaloms through cliché and convention that makes it remarkable. Shot in a working men’s club, which gives it’s a weirdly traditional feel, it shows up Lee’s hypnotic delivery style.
Looking like Morrissey turning up to a fancy dress party as Stan Laurel, Lee rejects the post-Izzard love of frenzy and takes his sweet time about things, often breaking down his jokes to their raw elements, toying with failed or obscure material, making either making the mechanics of the gags failure part of the show.
But mostly it’s the intense preaching that makes it so distinctive. Personally, he reminds me most of the legendary Bill Hicks, who curiously Lee also appears to shoot down here. Both share the same evangelical drive, using comedy to raise awareness of how the mainstream has caused us to dumb down, but while venom was Hicks’ stock in trade, Lee calmly uses the moral high ground to pick off his targets, which he does with absolute expertise and ease.
Perhaps I’ve overstated it bit here, but irrespective of any lofty achievements, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle is a comedy essential, a masterclass in delivery and material; playfully offering a cultural signpost to a better world where mediocrity is no longer acceptable as currency.
Starring: Stewart Lee, Kevin Eldon
Directed by: Tim Kirkby
Extras: Commentaries, interviews with Armando Ianucci, featurette