Published Aug 16, 2016It may be very British for Stewart Lee — who over the past 16 years has carved out a fruitful career in the UK as radio and TV host, creator of the notorious Jerry Springer: The Opera, and as a standup comedian — to dedicate an entire special around how much of a failure he's become. In fact, the title of his third special, 2008's 41st Best Stand Up Ever! refers to a Channel 4 program that ranked the English humourist in the titular position.
Recorded at the Stand Up Comedy Club in Glasgow, Scotland, Lee spends much of the first 25 minutes of this 80-minute special speaking about how his own mother prefers the comedy of elderly UK game show host Tom O'Connor over her own son's, using his drawn-out and cunning delivery to peculiarly attack O'Connor's personal life and sense of humour.
And if his comedy didn't seem uncomfortably petty by this point, Lee goes on to criticize the television station that ranked him so low, moving on to a tired tirade about just how racist Channel 4's reality series, Big Brother, has become. With his wry provision, Lee's bits come off enormously intricate and in-depth, no matter what the subject, which works well if you're willing to follow him down any avenue he dares blaze, but becomes extremely frustrating if you're unfamiliar with the British pop culture-heads he wantonly torments, like Russell Brand, BBC 2 and Daily Mail critics.
Although Stewart Lee is refreshingly cutting and pulls no punches with 41st Best Stand Up Ever!, it's nonetheless a true lesson in irony to be expected to know so much about him in order to understand the true humour behind his obscurity.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.