Friday, April 29, 2011

Moon on a stick (the statutory vaguely Royal-Wedding-themed post)

Stewart Lee was, I suppose, a bit of a spear-carrier when I first became aware of him; in the period when comedy was supposedly the new rock and roll, if Newman and Baddiel were the Sex Pistols, Lee and Herring were somewhere between the Damned and the Lurkers. Their TV show, Fist of Fun, was amusing, but the most memorable bits were mostly supplied by Kevin Eldon in the guise of Simon Quinlank, King of Hobbies. And subsequently Lee became one of the lost souls in the self-devouring cycle of Moderately Cerebral Blokish Radio DJ Double Acts Consisting Of Ex-Comedians, Journalists And/Or Musicians. (Essentially, first there was Lee and Herring, and [Andrew] Collins and [Stuart] Maconie – ex-NME, Select, etc – and [Mark] Radcliffe and [Marc] ‘Lard’ [Riley] – ex-The Fall and various other post-punk entities – and then suddenly there was Radcliffe and Maconie, and Collins and Herring, leaving Lee and Lard on a metaphorical shelf somewhere, which is like a real shelf, but in less immediate need of dusting.)

But then suddenly he was back, fatter and balder and pinker and apparently having read more books. In the past week or so he’s written two pieces for British broadsheets that deserve wider attention. First, in the Financial Times of all places, he lays out his principled opposition to the notion that he ought to be creating comedy that can be tweeted or txted, as part of a wider attack on the whole notion of the creative person as a mere content provider. His work is quotable sure, but in passages and paragraphs, and even then you lose some of the context. For example, from the FT article itself:
But today content is king and form is mutable. Can the comic become a film? Can the film become a game? Can the book become an e-book? Can the song become a ringtone? Imagine if the Japanese super-robots the Transformers were suddenly put in charge of all human culture. Here’s a Jacobean tragedy you can also use to mix trifle! Content is being dictated by its possible application to a variety of forms.
And from his most recent TV show:

And just to prove that Lee’s content extends beyond his own metaphorical navel fluff (which strangely finds its way from his metaphorical midriff to the metaphorical shelf mentioned above, where comedians and musicians and journalists who don’t make the grade are sent to die, possibly metaphorically), here he is in The Guardian on the subject of some wedding or another that’s happening today. There’s been some pretty extraordinary content created about this event, and I thought it had simultaneously reached its zenith of weirdness with the Kate and Wills roast dinner, but Lee goes one better by explaining the nuptials in terms of the Grail myth, with reference to the Fisher King and TS Eliot:
The prince has taken his lowly bride from within this charged landscape, where our ancestors celebrated the union of man and woman in stone and earth, and began the communal processes that forged a nation from their descendents, the broken nation that William the Fisher King must now heal. Our shaman-prince could not have chosen a better receptacle for his magical purposes than Kate Middleton, a peasant-spawned serf-girl, sodden with the primordial mire of the Swindon-shadowed swamplands.
Try txting that, you bastards...

PS: More cogent analysis of this utterly speshull day, from Marco Evers in Der Spiegel and Will Self in the New Statesman. Have fun, everyone, and don’t eat all the bunting!


Billy said...

The thing I like least about comedy is the actual jokes so I like comedians who don't bother doing them, or who make it impossible to quote them.

When you go and see a band, you don't say to people "This bit was really good" and then scat-sing the guitar solo.


patroclus said...

I nearly didn't read Stewart Lee's Will & Kate article because I thought it would just be Charlie Brooker-style sneering. Then I remembered that Stewart Lee is smarter than that, and I'm v. glad I gave it a go; all that juxtaposition of the mythical Arthurian landscape with the Middletons' party hats business is brilliant. Reminds me a bit of Cold Comfort Farm. Ace.

That's what makes Armando Iannucci great too - it's the gradual build-up and layering of ideas that makes it all funny.

Tim F said...

People don’t sing guitar solos, Billy, but they do mime them.

Most importantly, Patroclus, Lee has seized upon the essential truth that Swindon Is Funny.

Anonymous said...

Priceless Stewart Lee.

Meanwhile - appallingly - in front of a crowd of English people, and other British types, despite careful avoidance, preparation and delegation, I found myself having to introduce God Save The Queen - not once, but twice.
Bloody kids and their bloody trombones.
Felt neither waggish nor ironically postmodern.
Pissed off though.