TV: Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, BBC2, Episode 6 – Childhood

There was a point during Stewart Lee’s final Comedy Vehicle when I thought I could see the cogs moving. I thought I’d cracked it and knew what he was doing. And then he went and pulled the rug and dismantled the comedy process further, going out in excellent style. I’m not sure if we should be analysing this show though. As he persists in saying to speccy interrogator Chris Morris, De-Niro-in-Deer-Hunter style, “this is this”. 

This last episode in the series hinges on childhood memories and a possibly pivotal incident when Lee was urinated on as an infant. It was the routine that I saw him do the most during his warm-up gigs. I don’t know whether that was a fluke or whether it was a routine that he thought needed the most graft, but it certainly works onscreen. Even though for lengthy periods he gives you the impression that it doesn’t.

As he has done in other episodes in this finely honed run, there are plenty of pops at the mainstream comedy industry. The nostalgia theme is an easy way to digress briefly into talking about comedians who make a lucrative living remembering their “childhood in a regional accent.”

Lee’s childhood recollections aren’t really about Spangles and the elephant on Blue Peter doing a shit in the studio of course. And he soon moves on from them anyway, haranguing his audience (very Peter Finch in Network) for not appreciating comedy enough and, by extension, causing the premature deaths of some of comedy’s greatest exponents from Robin Williams to Mitch Hedberg. 

It’s satire of course, but it’s terrific, knowing, high-concept satire. And while Lee is sublimely brilliant with words I couldn’t help noticing that he arguably gets his biggest laughs of the entire series in this episode during an extended period of silence. Maybe series five will include an entire episode consisting of two minutes of gags and 25 minutes of nothing.

This has been a pretty audacious series but one that, judging from previously unconvinced friends I’ve spoken to, has won him a lot of new fans. It ends with a dreamlike departure, kind of Trainspotting-meets-Busby-Berkeley-on-a-BBC-budget. Oh, actually it doesn’t. Stick around for a bit more with Chris Morris and Lee giggling like a demented Buddha.

Read a review of episode 5 here

Read a review of episode 4 here

Read a review of episode 3 here

Read a review of episode 2 here

Read a review of episode 1 here

Watch episodes here.

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