Got a roll of film developed from the Lomo camera.
If you’ve never seen Stewart Lee perform standup, what are you doing reading this? He is quite simply the greatest comedian working today. Come back when you’ve spent hallf the day following the link below and the subsequent links it will give you.
Part of what makes Stewart Lee such a good comedian is his ability to take a point and thread it through 90 minutes of material, a lot of it needs to be viewed in context of the whole piece. This makes it hard to show clips of him and is possibly the reason that he is not more successful, in our current culture of talking heads, panelists and “duck house” jokes. This is partially solved by his BBC show, Comedy Vehicle, 6 half hour sets, which is not only the smartest comedy the BBC has commissioned in a long time, but has also been commissioned for a second series.
A quick look at what’s available could lead you to think that Stewart has only been around for 10 years or so. Even looking at his home page you see his DVD’s from 2001 onwards. The truth is he has been around for about 25 years, doing Edinburgh shows, small tours, and most famously, working with Richard Herring (also excellent, and also touring/putting out DVD’s) on TV shows including Fist of Fun and This Morning with Richard not Judy. Stewart helpfully provides download for these otherwise unavailable shows on his site here.
To the book:
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I pre-ordered this book. I guessed it was an autobiography from the title, and I was half right. What I got was not what I expected, but as is so often the case, infinitely better than what I was expecting. What Stewart has done is take the story of his life while he was being sued for blasphemy after “Jerry Springer: The Opera”, and how this bought him back to comedy and how he came to perform the three (to date) DVD’s he has and dissect them, until they are laid bare before you. These bits sit between full transcripts of the three DVD’s.
Now, Stewart Lee is known for not being afraid to throw a joke and then laboriously dissect what was wrong with the joke and why it isn’t funny. This is where he gets his laughs and it is brilliant to see.
When I started the book and realised what he was doing, the thought of someone dissecting and explaining his dissection and explanation of jokes was a bit off putting. I needn’t have worried. What we have here, is not only a story of how a failing career re-started itself and came to what it is today, but a deep insight to the thought processes and reasons for what he has done. The transcripts of the DVD’s (as well as the narrative parts of the book) are heavily annotated (I think there are more footnotes than actual transcript) and this is where the real insight is. He will tell you where he gets an idea from, why he’s phrased something very precisely, when and why he has lied or exaggerated, and loads of backstories and anecdotes.
For someone like me, the book is like a handbook, how to do comedy. From what I have seen on twitter and elsewhere on the internet, it would seem that most comedians in the country are poring over this book and loving it. It’s also very funny, adding another layer of funny over three already brilliantly funny DVD’s. It’s a bit like a directors commentary on the DVD, but as it’s written there is space to really deeply get into the subject.
You can buy the book here.
Stewart is currently touring, info and dates here.
A Perfect Fool Stewart Lee’s first novel, if you liked American Gods by Neil Gaiman, you’ll probably like this.
There will be spoilers. If you can call giving away Sex and the City 2, “spoiling” it.
Downfall was an extraordinary piece of film, a gripping acting performance portraying a man on the brink of insanity. A man who despite his situation couldn’t accept it, so ate cake and directed imaginary squadrons of troops against attacking armies to the west and east. Part of the films hook is the way we are watching in horror as this monster of a man lives out the final days of his dictatorship and life as those around him watched in horror, seemingly unable or unwilling to intervene.
In many ways, Kim Cattrall’s Samantha in Sex and the City 2 has a similar descent into lunacy, culminating in a vivid scene which is burnt onto my retina, as she stands, legs astride, pumping her fists against the air holding a strip of condoms and half growling, half shrieking “I HAVE SEX” to a crowd of onlooking horrified Muslims. Unfortunately, and I may be wrong here, not being a fan of the series, but I think the audience is supposed to like her. It’s clear her agent doesn’t.
In many ways SATC2 is a truly remarkable film. Remarkable in that there was not one single redeeming character or plot device. The editor should have been shot (2 and a half hours???) and the script writers are similarly culpable for trying to glue together two weak story lines together to make one badly thought out film. What was probably intended as overzealous empowering “the world can’t change me” attitude, fell utterly flat when you take the characters outside of their comfort zone. When the country that your film is set in refuses to allow you to film there on the grounds that it would be offensive to their culture, maybe you should have a good long hard look at the script again. Maybe they would have noticed that relocating the girls only serves to show them up as ignorant facile and self indulgent. When faced with being evicted from the country after narrowly avoiding facing public indecency charges, the girls reaction is to go “ooh, shoes”.
In many ways you can’t blame them this. They all live in a world without consequence, or reality. Their concession to the recession was, apparently, that Carrie couldn’t sell her flat. I can’t sell my flat at the moment. Guess what I’m doing? I’ll give you a clue, the answer isn’t to buy a much more extravagant one in the heart of the city. The rest of the film was dripping in excess, from the swans at the gay wedding, to the suggestion from big that they buy a third apartment for “personal space”.
So many of the characters come close to having redeeming moments, so close but then they blow it.
Big receives a phone call from Carrie, who tells him she kissed her ex. His response was to flatly tell her he’s busy and have to go, leaving her to stew in the guilt she tried to offload onto him. However his follow up to this display of backbone is to buy her a diamond ring. Again, you sometimes feel like you can’t blame her for her lack of sense of consequence.
Miranda is complaining about her boss treating her like shit. And it looked for a moment like she was going to stand her ground, but instead she jacks her job in. Apparently an income isn’t an issue for any of these girls, as she heads off to join her stay at home husband as a new stay at home wife, with a housekeeper. While they may well have savings and be able to do this, the fact that the film was written with showing the effects of the recession in mind, only shows it up as totally lacking in any sense of real life and responsibilities.
Carrie, who has spend 6 series and a film searching for a partner, someone to settle down with spends most of the film trying to destroy this. She finally has her husband who just wants to spend time with her, and all she wants to do is drag him out and then get annoyed when he has a good time. She then decides to see her ex, kisses him, and then tells Big about this, but only so alleviate her guilt. Actually she doesn’t have a redeeming moment does she, a bit like Samantha.
I’m starting to wonder why the others haven’t staged an intervention on Samantha. Her self destructive, abusive and dependant relationship with sex shows all the symptoms of addiction. She doesn’t HAVE SEX, sex rules her. She’s so blinkered to her surroundings and the affects of her actions on others that she gets herself ejected from the hotel and almost set upon by an offended group of Muslims. The reality of her situation is that she is staying in a very religious part of the world which doesn’t tolerate, and even has laws against public displays of affection. This disregard for her surroundings and safety and the safety of the others around her is all the doctors would need to lock her away.
Still, if it wasn’t for her antics, we wouldn’t have been treated to the spectacle of the crew donning niqāb’s and re-enacting Nuns on the run. The world would be a lonelier place if it weren’t for that scene. Maybe.
PS. Yes I know there’s a fourth one. She’s irritating and inconsequential, you may not trust your husband, but poor nanny, all you do is sing her praises, but assume she would be unable to resist an advance from your husband.
PPS. I was asked which film was worse, SATC2 or Moulin Rouge. I am still pondering the answer to this. I am leaning towards SATC2 as at least one person I know likes Moulin Rouge, this is one more than SATC2.
PPPS. I know this film is not for me, I didn’t ask to watch it, and was cajoled into reviewing it. That’s my excuse for the sloppy Godwin right at the start.