Interview: Stewart Lee talks about new show

You sense that comedian Stewart Lee might be slightly annoyed at life at the moment.

Friday, 30th June 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:27 am
Stewart Lee

With the start of the Brexit negotiations and the rise of Donald Trump, a left wing comedian could be though of having a bad time. But even spiders are against him at the moment.

He said: “I’m ok, but I got bitten by a spider during the previews of this new show and ended up in hospital for a week.

“They knew what it was at A&E immediately – a false widow. They came to the south of England about a hundred years ago but the winters normally kill them off.

Stewart Lee

“Because of climate change there is a population explosion and a lot of people are getting bitten. Donald Trump needs to tell the spiders there is no climate change and then maybe they’ll stop biting everyone.”

But a mere spider bite won’t stop him performing at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate on Thursday October 12 at 8pm.

But anyone expecting an evening similar to his BBC Two show Comedy Vehicle will be disappointed.

Stewart said: “It’s very different. Comedy Vehicle was four series of six 30 minute, self-contained sets.

Stewart Lee

“This is one two hour through line, although I’ve had to keep the ideas and structure a little less rigid than usual to cope with the sudden surges in news events.

“There is also an apparently meaningless set which is actually very subtle and cleverly linked to the themes of the show in a way which becomes clear over the evening.

“It is made entirely from the second hand dvds of other stand-up comedians, none of which I paid more than 10p for. Other comedians’ dvds are currently the cheapest building material in the world.”

But he says that he wasn’t surprised the show was cancelled after 10 years and winning multiple awards.

Stewart said: “The BBC is facing massive cuts due to the government trying to systematically dismantle it so something had to go from the comedy slate. Also, I’d done about all I could with that format.

“The truth is, financially I am better off touring that amount of material for two years, making a live dvd and then selling it to Netflix than I am giving more material away to BBC2 for less money.

“I am 48 with 2 kids and doing a job with no pension plan so I need to be realistic about making hay while people want to have my hay.”

And does he have nay advice for budding comedians out there?

He said: “Well, it’s the same as with acting or music. It isn’t like 30 years ago. If you’ve got rich parents you might be ok, if you haven’t don’t bother.

“Every loophole that allowed people to subsist financially while working out their schtick has been closed and all the opportunities are controlled by the same production companies. It’s a closed shop now that is only open to the wealthy anyway. Do something else.”

And while he is touring throughout 2017 and well into 2018, he is already making plans lasting well into next year.

He said: “I’m supposed to be making a folk rock album with the group Trembling Bells at some point.

“I wrote a comedy drama about Brexit in September that is currently with a production company trying to find someone who’ll pay to make it.

“I’ll write another book for Faber, this one about doing stand-up on TV. But I need to slow down. I have no life and no friends. I don’t do enough with the kids.

“After the tour ends in the Summer of 2018 I’ll lie on the sofa for a bit and watch ‘60s Italian westerns. They’re all I’ve watched for the last few years really. I’ve see nearly 200. I like them because the directors and writers tried to slip weird and interesting and political things into them under cover of the movies being genre.”

For tickets call 01604 624811 or visit