Quote of the Day: Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee: 41st Best Stand Up Ever

Stewart Lee has spoiled me. His work is so precise, so honed and controlled that it puts most other stand-up comedians to shame. His delivery is slow but perfectly timed, his choice of words impeccable. Sometimes he deliberately irritates his audience with repetition or sly insults, but I find that very funny indeed. At times he even picks apart his material on stage, explaining why it may or may not work and how he came to that conclusion.

In short, he knows what he’s doing. Which is more than can be said for a lot of comedians, many of whom I suspect went into comedy because their mates down the pub told them they were “well funny”. Stewart Lee is to other comedians what John Coltrane is to a kid with a kazoo. And what that kazoo-playing kid is to Kenny G.

His latest DVD, 41st Best Stand Up Ever is not quite as great as his previous one, but still most enjoyable. But the first half is so funny I’m actually too exhausted to laugh by the end, whereas I always find the necessary energy to laugh at his Standup Comedian DVD. However, it does feature a wonderful bit about the Celebrity Big Brother racism scandal, and the absurdity of light entertainment stars trying to make a serious statement.

When Martin Luther King saw racism in 1960s America, Martin Luther King called it out in the strongest, most visionary, eloquent terms possible. Martin Luther King said;
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King.

And when Russell Brand saw racism in his place of work, Big Brother, Russell Brand said;
“Oooh! There’s been some bad racism and stuff going down today, and no mistake, my liege. It’s made Mr. Winky go right small it has. Oh yes it has, oh yeah. And my ballbag, my old ballbag, has only gone up my bum. Here’s H from Steps.”

11 Responses to “Quote of the Day: Stewart Lee”

  1. spot on, i love stewart lee :D

    have you heard his pea green boat recording? it’s very good, too

  2. Ahh yes, that’s marvelous. I have the 10″ vinyl version, with lyrics by The Fall etched into the inner groove. Hurrah.

  3. Have you looked at the extras on the DVD? You can see an uncomfortable Stewart Lee admitting under surprisingly rigorous interrogation by Johnny Vegas that he completely made up the quote by Russell Brand (after initially continuing with the pretense that it’s verbatim). Vegas reads a transcription of what Brand actually said on Big Brother’s Big Mouth, and it’s entirely different, deploring racism demotically but eloquently.

    The interview is broken down on the DVD into named chapters, so it’s easy just to see that part of the interview.

  4. I watched that interview recently, I got the feeling the discomfort was actually staged. Doesn’t Stewart Lee also say that the interview was included as a legal disclaimer, to make it clear that the quote is false (as if it wasn’t already obvious) without disrupting the flow of the main programme.

  5. I suppose one’s perception of it is personal, but it didn’t seem staged to me. My discomfort at someone being misrepresented in this manner is tempered a little by Lee having the courage to include that portion of the interview on the DVD, but if this is some sort of meta-joke, it’s really going over my head.

    It also wasn’t clear to me when watching the routine the first time that the quote was false. Quite the opposite: Lee read from a piece of paper to give the impression that he was giving a verbatim quotation, exactly as he read from a piece of paper when delivering the MLK quote, which is verbatim.

    Also, if the quote is made up, then what point is Lee making? Brand’s own words rather undermine what seems to be Lee’s original point that celebrities can’t make meaningful statements on real-world issues. It’s not the most eloquent statement ever made about racism, but it is far from embarrassingly bad.

    I find this all very questionable. It’s one thing to use someone’s words to make them look foolish; it’s quite another thing to make up a quote out of whole cloth and then pass it off as someone else’s to make them look foolish.

    Incidentally, I like Stewart Lee, and I’ve enjoyed his writings about The Fall, and thought this was a very good DVD, with this one considerable exception.

  6. Apologies for reviving this ancient topic, but I thought there might be a couple things worth saying.

    Firstly, addressed to Dermot, I don’t know that Stewart Lee is in the business of representing Russell Brand accurately. Perhaps Wikipedia is (or where ever Johnny Vegas found the full text of his statement), but Stewart Lee is a comedian. Exaggeration is one of the principle devices through which comedy operates, and selective misrepresentation can and should be used to serve the kind of veracity that only comedy can offer. Though it may not seem a kind or honest depiction of Brand, juxtaposing the juvenile tendencies that Brand has made his career on with his fleeting unduplicated pretension at moral seriousness (however accurate and well intentioned the statement may be) does make a meaningful point, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

    Secondly, addressed to Mr. Craig, I was wondering if you might be willing to part with your vinyl copy of Pea Green Boat. I’d pay a bit more than what you bought it for (double at the very least). I got into Stewart Lee just a month or so ago, so I never had the chance at buying it before it sold out. If you’re willing you should probably also know that I live in the U.S. so it’d have to be shipped. Obviously I’d pay the shipping. Maybe post a comment here to let me know either way? Thanks!

  7. Hello, bumping the topic again. I got here by googling after watching the interview to find out more about it, and I’m re-watching it now. I kind of thought this section of the interview was staged and ironic the first time, and it’s really very obvious on a second viewing, The things Stewart says are ridiculous even though delivered with a straight face (eg “[Brand] is a product, and if I want to attribute things to him that he didn’t say, then that’s my prerogative”), and Johnny Vegas just wouldn’t have let him get away with it if he didn’t know Stew was being silly.

  8. Watch stewart lee’s extra (red button) material from “stewart lee’s comedy vehicle”, they are interviews of the same style, but with Armando Iannucci, and are clearly put on, showing stewart lee to be wrong, probably as contrast to the stand up show.

    I cant find any clip of russell brand saying either quote, but because of the similarity to the red button material, i think the joke is in the fact that the quote that johnny vegas was given was incorrect.

  9. I read that he that he wanted do a Neighbours cameo! :O. do you know if this is true? There’s a bit of me that sort of hopes this is not true lol.

  10. aldkfj – i think its fair to assume actually that Johnny Vegas’ quote is the accurate one, if either are accurate. Brand recorded “Naziboy” back in 2002 which was clearly used as a vehicle to highlight the inherit racism in the BNP, and has since delivered a speech at Oxford University, much of which focused on racism. He once descibed Big Mouth as “like Kilroy only talking about Big Brother and racism isn’t allowed”. I think its unlikely that someone who has been outspoken about racism would suddenly resort back to ball bag jokes.

    And i’m with Dermot on this one, regardless of whether you view Brand as a “product” or dislike his material, to misquote him to that extent serves no purpose. I understand that Lee is in the business of representing Brand accurately but he is very quick to jump on others for what he deems unfair treatment (his routine on Topgear being a prime example), and i think most people would consider having a made up quote attributed to you, especially on a topic such as racism, and one that you have been previously outspoken about as unfair.

  11. Ben Styles Says:

    The interview is clearly staged… It adds to the original joke. Brand made neither comment. Don’t think you get Stewart Lee’s comedy if you believe that Johnny Vagas has caught him out.

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