Television has been good to Stewart Lee – attracting a whole new group of fans and their friends. But he is not happy-bemoaning that technology is not yet sophisticated enough to weed out those who fail to appreciate his sustained narrative routines. After all, these days’ audiences are accustomed to comedians who serve up jokes in bite-size pieces that can be repeated in Mock the Week.
Yes, Lee is as bitchy as ever about his peers. Suffering from writer’s block he takes advice from young up and coming comedians – who all seem to be called Russell- and runs around stage grinning inanely and giving the audience the thumbs-up. He rejects the new style of comedy in which the comedian matures as a result of a personal tragedy. Tongue in cheek - Lee claims he would never base a show on his harassment by religious fundamentalists and expresses sympathy for comedians who can sustain their grief for an entire tour.
Lee’s established techniques of deconstructing his jokes during the performance and suffering from crippling insecurity are given a bright polish for the new show. He carefully explains the meaning of jokes for audience members who, he feels, lack empathy.
Lee admits that the pressure of touring and the need to raise (which amounts to watching cartoons with) his son have kept him away from subjects to which his audience might relate. Ironically he claims it is not possible to develop a routine around Scooby Do and then delivers a 10 minute Ben Elton-style rant on that very subject. Shamefaced he acknowledges that his current show is a carpet remnant – patched together from old routines. Desperate for inspiration Lee drives around hoping that the names of shops might generate material before hitting the bottle and begging for the show to end as unsympathetic tweets provoke his insecurities.
Despite the claims of its creator - Carpet Remnant World is far more than a ragbag of odds and sods. It is one of the most meticulously constructed comedy shows on the circuit. In addition to shining up his techniques Lee has a new vulnerability – he claims his wife has suggested a vasectomy but that even she acknowledges there is no need to rush.
As a result, Stewart Lee he has never been funnier. At this rate he might soon become the 40th funniest comedian – perhaps even the 39th.