Leicester Square Theatre, Leicester Square, London, 04/11/2019.
Back in 2005 Stewart Lee was the first person I ever saw perform at the Soho Theatre, performing his 90’s Comedian show. While I’d be very fond of stand up beforehand it was the show which gave me my passion for the art form, and one which redefined what I thought was possible from it as Lee’s story of vomiting in to the gaping anus of Jesus Christ made me laugh an incredibly painful extent, but also left an enormous impression upon me as to what comedy could be and do.
Since then I’ve caught every show he’s put on and always loved them an immense amount, until 2016’s Content Provider that is. Not that it didn’t still have moments of genius, and parts which had me laughing hysterically, but there was the odd moment which frustrated, the way he divided the audience in to two sections especially as it’s something he’d been doing since I saw him in 2005 and for the first time he added nothing new to the idea, with it feeling rather lazy and tired.
So for once I wasn’t overtly optimistic as to how I’d find a night of comedy by Lee, previously it had all been but guaranteed to amaze but now I wasn’t so sure. But I need not have worried in the slightest as this was a fantastic couple of hours of comedy, with Lee on his best form since 2007’s 41st Best Stand Up Ever. Though it’s billed as two separate shows thematically both have a lot in common with as they deal with Lee’s feelings about his place in the world, and how others react to his work, in Tornado it’s sometimes in daft ways such as the fact that on Netflix his show Comedy Vehicle was accidentally given Sharknado’s write up, and also Alan Bennett’s overtly highbrow review of his comedy, while in Snowflake it revolves around a piece about him by Tony Parsons in GQ which patronisingly called him a snowflake.
As well as much mockery of himself (with Lee addressing his change in appearance since Content Provider the moment he walked on to the stage) he uses the set up to attack a number of other piss poor comedians, with Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Carr, Dave Chappelle and Josh Widdicombe being the main subjects of his scorn, but he also has some superb (and much needed) material relating to Brexit, Political Correctness and Boris Johnson. Too many comedians have shied away from tackling these subjects, claiming that politics in the 21st century is beyond satire, but Lee proves them to be utterly wrong in both parts of the night. And instead of claiming that some of the audience don’t get it, and splitting the crowd in to two sections like he has way too many times, pleasingly he just attacks everyone, developing the idea in very funny ways as he suggests we’re not his normal crowd but “Christmas wankers”, and part of office parties who don’t really know his work. It’s all nonsense, of course, but that doesn’t stop it being beautifully funny and instantly allayed my fears that he was getting a little lazy at this stage of his career.
If you were to be annoyingly picky you could point out how he reuses one joke from an older show (where he mentions people mixing up political correctness and health and safety) one bit of him playing around with repetition where he does an impression of Ricky Gervais trying to say the unsayable goes on for a bit too long, and Tornado is a slightly better show than Snowflake, but these are ridiculously minor complaints about a show which is outstandingly funny, and the work of a master of comedy who is truly back on his very best form.
Stewart’s Official Site.