“I AM CULTURE!” declares Stewart Lee around the midway point in the last episode of this third series of his much acclaimed Bafta winning series. Of course, it must be added and in keeping with the post-modern digressive style of both the series and his stand up of the past decade or so that Lee imbues this statement with an exaggerated sense of bitter entitlement that is deliberately self mocking . Discussing the re-commissioning of another series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, the BBC recommend he become a presenter on the Beeb’s own flagship arts programme The Culture Show to raise his profile which if we are to trust Lee’s persona – and for the sake of laughter this is of course very necessary though one should also be mindful and wary of the ironically tinged opinions of someone who looks like a Serbian warlord – is almost non-existent among the British public thus provoking Lee’s sneeringly uproarious riposte.
Six episodes per series, each with an over-arching theme housing Lee’s weary, musings on subjects ranging from the broad (‘England’) the specific (‘Context’) to the more personal (‘Marriage’). Interspersed between Lee’s inventive, excoriating and often whimsical stand-up routine in front of an audience are surreal comedy sketches relating to Lee’s observations and an interview section in which Lee is interrogated by a highly sceptical and hostile interviewer, played by the great Chris Morris and played in previous series by Armando Iannucci. Both Morris and Iannucci have been influential and prolific figures in British comedy and satire since the early 1990’s having been involved with daring, subversive, intelligent shows such as The Day Today, Brasseye, Jam, I’m Alan Partridge and Time Trumpet to name but a few.
In addition, Morris also works as a script editor on the series with Iannucci having executive produced the first series and their patronage of Lee’s incisive brand of comedy is apt as Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle is – much like those aforementioned programmes – a take it or leave it proposition. should you want to leave it, there is built into Mr Lee’s routine a constant mode of self-awareness and self- analysis that would appear to make any rejection or criticism redundant. though seeing as the persistent negation of Mr Lee’s ego by others seems to fuel much of his material it would seem that criticism is a most necessary and vital component in refining and challenging the parameters of comedy and performance which – ones personal mirth inducing predelictions aside – he undoubtedly succeeds at.