For a man who professes to dislike the internet so much, Stewart Lee is an ardent fan on one of its trendiest aspects: the meme.
is act is almost entirely based around the recurrence of motifs: building them up in the audience’s mind and returning back to them again and again, hoping that the growing conspiracy of insider knowledge that he creates in the auditorium will repay with bigger laughs with every reoccurence.
The most wicked part of this conceit is that Lee is so naked in its pursuit – actively bragging about the emptiness of his show while taking close to £20 a seat from a near-sell out Theatre Royal crowd – and that the audience loved it.
So he gets away with a show that has Scooby Doo, self-aggrandising shop names, and the acts of other comics as its main themes, and does so with enviable panache, deceitful confidence and a still-growing fan base after more than two decades as a professional comedian.
He can do this because as well as pursuing an almost Platonic study of comedy he is very funny. Alongside the metaphysical dispositions there are very good gags, both of the bold, crude kind, and slow burning jokes that take hold after a few cogs have turned in the listener’s head.
Lee made much of his previous visits to Norwich at the Art Centre and the Playhouse, and was perhaps too close with an observation that his style of comedy works better in smaller venues. It deserves Theatre Royal-sized audiences and their big belly laughs though.