Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Review by Ryan Beardsley

A chilly December night at the Leicester Square and the ‘41st Best Stand Up Ever’ hobbles onto the stage, still recovering from a broken ankle but otherwise in good spirits, referring to himself as an “out of shape William Shatner”, setting the tone for a good natured evening compared to what one might expect from the acid tongued Londoner.

After poking fun at those who had been reluctantly dragged along as part of an office Xmas party, Lee began a routine about that most sacred of cows, JK Rowling, or to be more precise the whole tiresome Trans vs Terf war (pun unintended). The highlight was the teasing of the audience about a joke everyone could see coming about Rowling’s decision to write under a male pseudonym, but as you’d imagine these expectations were subverted in a more original and rebellious punchline.

Lee played up to the more intellectually diverse crowd than he might usually expect, with a crude gag about being pleasured by the entire staff of the BBC, his way of showing he could write “that kind of material”. I’ll never look at George Alagiah the same way again.

Woe betide anyone who can’t wait 45 minutes to check their phone, as Lee caught someone out and launched into a hilarious tirade about how he would quite literally insert any phones into his rectum if he caught sight of another, a practice I wouldn’t recommend if he ever played a stadium (not like he would). Side note there was a guy a couple rows in front of me filming on his phone despite the many notices and Stewart Lee’s own requests, God I would have loved to see his device shoved up Stew’s anus.

My favourite part of the show was Lee’s utter destruction of the lamentable Phoebe Waller Bridge and the way in which she ‘invented’ breaking the fourth wall. The highlight being Lee’s rendition of the Fleabag theme tune, funnier in 9 seconds than anything that has come out of her mouth in history, Christ that Indiana Jones film is going to be a nightmare.

I’ve seen Lee a couple of times before and I found him to be much more jovial this time around, giggling at his own jokes (calling both himself and Kevin Bridges out for this comedian’s sin) chatting with the audience and improvisation brought out some really great stuff, especially when interrogating those sat next to the empty seats. Word of warning,  you’re coming and your friend has dropped out, have a good excuse prepared for why…

There was a genuinely touching moment where Lee discussed the late Sean Lock and Barry Cryer. Displaying  a more tender side, obviously with the same anarchic gags peppered throughout the genuine pathos but at the same time, maybe he is mellowing and becoming a little softer as he gets on in years, either way everyone appreciated it.

Speaking of softer, Lee ends the evening with a routine portraying the humdrum nature of office life, while requesting the audience compose their own jazz theme to play in their heads as Brexit and EU red tape has made it too expensive to play himself. This finale had some excellent physical comedy lampooning the mundane nature of human pleasantries and had me in stitches, dare I say this wouldn’t have been out of place with the more mainstream acts that Lee so disdains, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of physical humour and mining the every day for laughs judging by the audience reaction.

So all in all a great show, even for first timers or those who may not think Stewart Lee is their cup of tea, my advice is give it a try, you might just be surprised.

You can find more about the Stewart Lee tour dates and tickets here. 

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