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An Oxford graduate with a Writers’ Guild award under his belt, Stewart lee is one of the new breed of comics who eschew quickfire gags for longer, thought-provoking monologues.
He has described himself as ‘the third most theoretically rigorous comedian working in the English- speaking world’, arguing that his act is a ‘triumph of form over content’. Those on a Thesaurus-free diet, though, might like to think of lee as a sarcastic outsider, mumbling holler- than-thou truths - or as comedy montth Deadpan put it, ‘the flick Cave of Comedy’.
Fans of his Radio 1 show Fist of Fun may find these comparisons rather baffling, since lee adopts a far more upbeat and accessible style for his work with fellow comic Richard Herring. However, his solo stand up show delves into the slightly darker side of his personality.
‘l’m hoping to do some of the more indulgent building pieces where people either buy into it in the first fifteen minutes or else are baffled for the whole show,’ says Lee. ‘I like hearing the cogs turning, so there will be no clues as to which hits are supposed to be funny. In fact, there will be no observational stuff and nothing that relates to the audience’s Iives.’
Stewart lee: lleitzschian comedian
Perhaps the most telling of the comedian’s statements about his attitude to making people laugh is his response to the simple question: ‘Are you a fan of comedy?’ ’Yeah . . . no, no I’m not. . . yeah, lam,’ says Lee. It’s precisely this uncertainty that’s produced the two sides of his comic persona - and is bound to make his show such an exhilarating, bittersweet experience.
‘lleitzsche said that a joke is an epigram of the death of an emotion, and that sums up my act. That’s really pretentious, but then again, I’m paying for the show so I can say what I like.’ (lan Watson)
Stewart lee (Fringe) Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, 10 Aug—3 Sept, 9.45pm, £7/8 (EB/7).
As associate editor of satirical magazine Scullyts'ug. Simon Hardeman often delights in being 'cheeky and subversive‘. Much the same could be said of his
work with the wheelchair-
bound ‘sit-down‘ comic. Spike Breakwell. which has previously combined ‘horseplay and lavatory humour' in On the Toilet with Shergar. This year they plan to upset the entire comedy community.
The production in question is an hour-long tragi-comedy entitled Dear/t Ufa Comedian. A mixture of stand-up and drama. it uses the story of a desperate muse. Aureolis. and a no-hope family entertainer. Terry Tree. to tnake a long overdue point about the
Death of a Comedian: subverting stand-up
state of the rib-tickling ; industry.
‘There's a bit of a comedy backlash at the moment.’ says Hardeman.
i ‘Stand-up has reached a
plateau. and people do sometimes take the short cut of ripping off past comedy stars and hoping no one will notice. It tnay only be a mannerism. but with a single mannerism a Perrier Award can he
With writing credits
E including Radio 4's
Brand and Julian Clary all held up for audience inspection. But even so.
' they stress that the play
will still appeal to those
who are interested in more
than simply tabloid titiliation.
‘People have enjoyed comedy and watched it grow, and now they‘re asking a few questions.‘ says Hardeman. ‘They're interested in a show which opens the door a bit and says this is what really goes on. Hopefully. it will leave you thinking a bit more than “how can l get my bus home'."" (Ian Watson)
I Death of a Comedian (Fringe) Southside Community Centre (Venue 82) 667 7365, 13 Aug—3 Sept. 9.40pm. £3/£4.50/£5 (£2/£4/£4.50).
It started with an exhibition of the 1800-piece royal Danish dinner
service and will end, via a journey through assorted land and time
scapes, on lnverleith lawn, ‘with a massive scene of revelation with dragons and beasts from Hell, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the . four daughters of God battling with the 1
Connecting the two is the 18th century botanist linnaeus and an epic production by the award-winning Toby Gough, who directed Klytemnestra’s
Balms on last year’s Fringe. this new
production will explore linnaeus’s life and times through a promenade performance in the Royal Botanic Garden - gardens which were laid out
according to the linnaean system of plant classification.
‘Because of the way linnaeus collected plants - which were to appear on the dinner plates - it legitimises being able to include performers and styles from different cultures,’ explains Gough, whose
eclectic ensemble includes 50 singing I
actors, 25 Renaissance musicians, ten
: folk musicians playing harps,
trumpets, and violins, and the Royal Court musicians of Uganda.
‘lt’s a huge Faustian fairy tale — there are four people playing the character of linnaeus, at different ages,’ says Cough.
‘On the surface, it’s a huge carnivalesque romp: it’s sexy and
bawdy and fun with huge choreographed dance scenes and clowning and crazy gags. But at its heart there’s a promenade through 18th century history, trying to understand what happened then and what is still with us today.’
To summarise then, it’s about ‘sex,
plants, pain, torture, plant castration,
: genocide, with a cannibalistic feast at
fashion, farce and
A new black comedy
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; linnaeus - Prince Of Flowers (Fringe) ; Theatrum Botanlcum, Royal Botanic ! Garden (Venue 159) 225 5199, 15-27
Ann. 8M. £8 l“).
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mount (MURRAY i ya u g at it .I "
52 The List 12—1 8 August 1994