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Stewart Lee on Aberdeen, Inverness, rowdy fans and being called ‘comedian’s comedian’

English comedian Stewart Lee will visit Aberdeen and Inverness in March.
English comedian Stewart Lee will visit Aberdeen and Inverness in March. Image: Steve Ullathorne.

Stewart Lee is known for doing comedy about comedy – but his new post-lockdown tour Basic Lee takes the concept to a whole other level.

After a decade of concept shows involving massive sets and large-scale props, the English comedian decided to go back to basics, hence calling the show Basic Lee.

“The staging has become increasingly elaborate,” said Stewart.

“The last tour involved dropping a big structure of a shark on me that I was eaten by. It was made out of wood and metal and it ended up being very complicated. I had to take two people on the road with me to operate it.

“There were a couple of nights when it went wrong and once it nearly killed me and it was also very expensive – I had to put it in storage for two years because of the Covid lockdown.

“So I wanted to clear the decks for this tour and give me space to work and improvise when I wanted to. I didn’t want to worry about hitting certain targets at certain times because they were cues for incredibly complicated bits of machinery.”

English comedian Stewart Lee is looking forward to travelling to Aberdeen and Inverness next week. Image: Steve Ullathorne

Stewart Lee will go back to basics in  Aberdeen and Inverness

Clearing the stage also tied in with the show’s theme – which is Stewart himself.

He explained: “It’s about me as a person and a comedian and trying to take control of my life and environment.

“I think we’re all like that – increasingly so after lockdown. We want to have a sense of agency or control. People recently realised they were sort of defined by their work or their activities and once they didn’t have them, they fell apart a bit.

“So that’s sort of what this show is about – it’s about a man trying to define himself by his job and in my case, my job happens to be stand-up comedy so it’s entertaining for people watching you do that in a way that it probably wouldn’t be if I was, for instance, a carpenter.

“Superficially, it’s about me trying to work out a definition of what stand-up comedy is and to look at how it is performed or generated. But the subtext to that I’m not going to explain because that would spoil it for the people who come to the show.”

Have you booked tickets to see Stewart Lee in Aberdeen or Inverness? Image: Steve Ullathorne

Stewart said that while his new routine is “always in a bit of a state of flux”, the story remains the same. However, he tends to enjoy the first 20 minutes of the show when he talks about anything that’s topical.

“It’s a bit of fun to get people in the mood,” Stewart said.

“And obviously, since I started writing it in August, we’re already on the third conservative government.

“Most of the people I write five minutes about seem to get sacked or disappear. That bit is quite lively and fun because of the political scene at the moment. There are a lot of opportunities for improvisation and crowd work in the show so it does change.”

Stewart Lee gives his thoughts on hecklers and phone usage

And Stewart really doesn’t mind when people shout out during his shows – he even invites a fair amount of dialogue.

“The only problem you have is that sometimes if someone is too drunk they don’t know the dialogue is finished and isn’t contributing anything,” Stewart said.

“I used to just let it play out but now I feel that if people have paid £25 or £30 you kind of have to get that person dealt with in order to get the night back on track.”

Funnyman Stewart Lee. Image: Tristram Kenton.

But Stewart realises dealing with hecklers on a practical level isn’t always an easy task.

The comedian said that it took a while for crowds to “calm down” and get used to enjoying live comedy again post-lockdown.

“All theatres in the whole of UK will tell you that after lockdown there was an initial six-month period when people came back to the theatres and were out of control. Their drinking was mad and they didn’t know how to behave and be with other people.

“In Bromley, there was a fight in the audience with a knife – the police were involved.

“There was a lot of conflict and fighting but it has calmed down now.”

Another thing that would drive Stewart mad but has now improved is fans filming parts of his routine.

Another thing that would drive Stewart mad but has now improved is fans filming parts of his routine.

“People seem to be a lot better about phone usage. I used to be so frustrated about that.

“With the existence of social media, there is a lot of opportunity to take a short clip of you, de-conceptualise it and bring a whole world of **** on your head.

“I don’t really like people filming things because if I say something contentious, it’s normally contextualised in some way but if people just film a little bit of it, they steal the concept from it.

“I used to get very paranoid about phone usage – I used to go in the audience to stop that and take phones of people, but there’s been very little of that (phone usage) on this tour.”

Stewart Lee is dubbed the ‘comedian’s comedian’

Stewart, who formed the comedy duo Lee and Herring with Richard Herring in 1992, was previously referred to as the comedian’s comedian – something he considers a compliment.

He said: “What everybody wants in their field of work on some level is the approval of their peers so it’s very nice to say that.

“I’m not really aware of how I’m viewed because obviously, comedians don’t talk to me about it, but to be called the comedian’s comedian is pretty good. I actually think the comedian’s comedian is Daniel Kitson.

“I think if you were to ask comedians who the comedian’s comedian is, they would say Daniel Kitson, but if you were to ask the public, they might say me.”

“They would look at me and think ‘well, he’s obviously good at it but we don’t seem to appreciate it so perhaps comedians would like it’,” he added, laughing.

Stewart Lee will be at Aberdeen’s Tivoli Theatre and Inverness’ Eden Court.

Stewart Lee looking forward to travelling to Aberdeen and Inverness

But Stewart hopes those who booked tickets to see his new show in Aberdeen and Inverness will have a great time.

“One of my favourite bits of any tour is the journey to Inverness,” said Stewart.

“I like going past the Balvenie Distillery. Inverness, of course, is an absolutely beautiful place to spend time in. Walking along the river to the theatre is just great.

“The whole circuit – Dundee, Inverness, Aberdeen, Perth – is one of the things I look forward to enormously every two years and it’s such a privilege to do it.”

And if he has enough time to explore the towns and cities he tours this year, fans can often spot him in second-hand book shops and record shops or admiring paintings in art galleries.

“I’m also going through a phase of looking at churches at the moment – I’m really into stained glass windows now. I like to see who’s done all the church architecture and cathedrals,” Stewart concluded.

Stewart Lee will bring his show Basic Lee to Eden Court in Inverness on Monday March 13. Tickets can be booked here. He’ll then travel to Aberdeen’s Tivoli Theatre where he’ll perform on Tuesday March 14 and Wednesday March 15. Tickets can be purchased here.

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