Preview: Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, BBC2

Ben Watt Tribute Act Stewart Lee

The comedy gods have smiled upon us. Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle is back again for a third series. Of course there is no god, comedy or otherwise, so let's just celebrate the return to television of contemporary stand up's smartest sage. In fact there are two smart sages for the price of one here. Chris Morris also returns to the screen in this series, replacing Armando Iannucci as the "hostile interrogator" who intermittently questions Lee in a darkened room during the programme.

The Morris segments come across as Lee meeting his therapist, as if he is trying to come to terms with his elevated position in the stand-up firmament where he has to deal with the pressure of constant scrutiny. Morris adopts a neutral yet accusatory tone, suggesting that Lee's postmodern style is possibly an "elitist prank". I suspect he is not the first person to think this.

Anyway, the elitist prank this week involves a look at the all-pervasive nature of internet pornography and social media and the way that kids are glued to screens these days rather than outside playing with a ball and a stick or defacing road signs as kids used to do in the 1970s. Lee delivers his comic critiques with pinpoint accuracy and the occasional gnomic smile. There is no Live at the Apollo-style glossy, brightly-lit floor in the Mildmay Club in North-East London where Comedy Vehicle is filmed, but that does not mean it isn't a slick, professional operation. Lee even looks as if he has invested in a new suit for the occasion. Albeit a shitty brown-coloured new suit

I wrote a review of Lee when he did his work-in-progress live shows for this series at the Leicester Square Theatre and I've also seen him do a few short spots in the last few months, including a memorable Resofit benefit gig at the Bloomsbury, but I haven't seen him do this material, which makes it feel particularly fresh, even though aspects of the subject are pretty well trodden comedy terrain. A combination of rigour, inventiveness, audacity and downright hard work pushes each section to the comic precipice, extracting every single dribble of humour from every set-up. And it should get better - Kevin Eldon crops up later in the run.

There are, inevitably, a number of tropes that will be familiar to regular Lee fans, from picking on a random famous stand-up (Lee Mack in this case) to extracting laughs from dismantling his routines even as he delivers them. But his style here also feels more accessible than ever, without making any compromise. Let's hope this series picks up some new fans as well as his usual followers who watch him with religious devotion. Well, I say religious devotion, but, of course, as I said, god doesn't exist. And if he did he wouldn't be wearing a shitty brown suit.

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, BBC2, Saturdays from March 1, 10pm.

Here's a trailer

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