What a tortuous load of self-indulgent bollocks. Repetitive, pretentious and mystifyingly lauded by some quarters, this is the sort of thing that people want to like more than they actually do – like a comedy version of quinoa. The closest thing to a laugh that it engendered from me was an agonised sigh. What really stoked my ire was when he started his routine and gave the audience maddeningly specific instructions of exactly how to clap him in: “Three seconds of applause, like I’m halfway through the routine and have just said a mediocre bit.” What the hell? That’s a man drunk on his tiny little bit of power.
The thrust of his show was that racism was bad, so thanks for clearing that up. After that though, he proceeded to be… well, ok, not racist but strereotypical and snobbish about all Liverpudlians. This is a common thing in comedy: it’s ok to mock the poorer and disaffected if they are from our own country but not if they are from somewhere else. It is ok to denigrate the Scots – the joke about their biggest import to England being tramps is an old one – in a way that it’s not about say, the Polish. There’s a comedy shorthand: Norfolk + incest = easy laugh.
Lee says comedy audiences come to shows ready to laugh, which would explain how he gets them. He then said something about the comedian’s job is to decant laughter, like a surgeon or pig semen milker (another agonised sigh). I think a comedian’s job is just to make people laugh. He literally tells the audience to laugh. He’s lucky that the type of people who would pay to see him are forgiving: if I had paid to see his show and he told me exactly how and how long to laugh for, without actually making me laugh, I would find it very difficult to resist launching some sort of projectile at him.
Lee is speaking to a very particular set of assumptions which creates a shorthand in which he doesn’t actually need to make jokes. It’s laughter from guilt rather than mirth. He says a neutral statement and the audience make their own jokes from their own Guardian-primed preconceptions. Some might call it clever, I call it lazy.
Only people with too much money would pay to see a comedian who isn’t actually funny and makes them do the work themselves; it’s like going to see Lady Gaga and being expected to don a rotting, putrid meat dress yourself. That’s not what entertainers are for.
I also took umbrage with his hair.