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I hate Twitter. It’s like a state surveillance agency staffed by gullible volunteers.
In season 3 of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, highbrow comic Stewart Lee tackles concepts like UKIP’s racist statement that if Bulgarians are so smart, they should stay in Bulgaria and make it better there, rather than moving to England. The show does so with both ends of its standup/sketch hybrid format: a historically accurate rant about immigration that addresses every group that has come to the U.K., including neolithic people and a fish crawling out of primordial ooze…and a sketch where Paul Putner travels back in time to tell said fish (Kevin Eldon) to get back into the ocean so that it can make the ocean better, rather than come to England.
Stewart Lee, despite his acceptance speech being cut from the 2012 broadcast of the BAFTAs (alongside Terry Pratchett for Choosing to Die), is the epitome of culture. In order to get Comedy Vehicle recommissioned for another series, it was suggested that Lee become a personality, such as by becoming the host of The Culture Show. “Host the culture show?” he says in Vehicle. “I am culture!” It’s true: he has an Olivier for his opera (Jerry Springer: The Opera), has written a novel and a couple non-fiction books, tours standup shows, has written and starred in sketch shows for television and radio, hosted radio documentaries, is a newspaper columnist, curates festival lineups, appears on music albums, and even has a cameo in a Hulk comic book.
The standup bits are lengthy, including a phone conversation that breaks the fourth wall more and more, an anthem about how there was nothing in the old days, and a routine built around an imagined future oligarchy society under the premise that you must tailor your material to your audience. Of course, he doesn’t forget digs at fellow comedians like Lee Mack, Jimmy Carr, and Ricky Gervais. (“I like Lee Mack, but I can’t do those kinds of cheeky boy next door things because I’m not the cheeky boy next door, am I? I’m ‘a cultural bully from the Oxbridge Mafia who wants to appear morally superior but couldn’t cut the mustard on a panel game,’ or so I infer from Lee Mack’s autobiography.” Mack has since said that he was addressing several comedians of that ilk, not specifically Stewart Lee.)
“If Ricky Gervais shouts ‘mong’ in a forest over and over again and there are no Americans there to tell him he’s a genius, is that offensive?”
In contrast to season 1, this season has just one sketch per episode (always at the end), but the standup is still inter-spliced with bonus material, this time a moody-atmospheric interview between Lee and Chris Morris, much like the Lee/Iannucci discussions in the bonus features of the season 1 DVD. (If you don’t know Chris Morris, he’s a brilliant television and film writer–my favorite being JAM–and starred in season 1 of The IT Crowd.) Because there are fewer sketches, there is more time and budget that go into them, such as a slo-mo art peice reinacting the time Stewart fell in his kitchen and woke up confused, or Hitler chopping down a tree and Kevin Eldon doing Stewart’s impression of Jimmy Carr. (Incidentally, in one of his books (How I Escaped My Certain Fate), he praises Carr for being little less than a saint.)