Review: Stewart Lee’s Content Provider a hit at King’s Lynn Corn Exchange despite threatening never to return
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What makes Stewart Lee so unashamedly funny is how he gets under the skin of his audience. So he began his show, Content Provider, by telling us how much he hated King's Lynn.
He pointed to the fact that the Corn Exchange was almost half empty, a problem he said he's always had in this town in his 27 years of stand up comedy.
'I'm not coming here again, my brother was stationed at RAF Marham and even he hates it,' he said. 'There's not enough people to get the big laughs.'
But there were plenty of big laughs permeating the theatre, and plenty of thought-provoking silences too.
Current polarised politics and humanity's obsession with the digital world acted as the overarching theme of Lee's show, with Caspar David Friedrich's painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog serving as an appropriate backdrop.
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In the first act, he took us back to the Brexit vote, which is treading on dangerous waters in a leave-majority town. He double bluffs his insults at leave-voters but not before making sound arguments of why we shouldn't make massive generalisations of them.
Lee worked the audience to fit with his show and it's something he does so well because he's aware of who they are. They are the under 40's he berated as Pokemon Go players and courgette eaters belonging to the 'metropolitan liberal elite'.
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- 4 Two people arrested during police operation in south Norfolk
- 5 Five former MoD homes go up for sale near Norwich
- 6 Seal charity to take 'unprecendented' action to protect Norfolk seal colony
- 7 'A lovely talented man': Tributes to Cromer Pier Show headliner Phil Butler
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He even questioned his own stance within this elite, turning down a stint with 'evil' Sky because he didn't want to appear in an industry owned by Rupert Murdoch.
He explained his jokes to the audience in his typical, superior manner, with bitter irony that garnered the most rapturous laughter. And he made an inbred joke about Norfolk which, as an unwritten rule, must be done.
In the second half, he returned to the same gag used to explain Brexit to introduce Trump, and drew a comparison between Game of Thrones - without having ever watched it - and the Scottish independence referendum, which for an avid fan almost made sense.
In a more concentrated routine, the 'exaggerated story' of his grandfather improvising bondage and S&M bizarrely reflected a meaningful era without selfies and assembly-line consumerism. The show ended with a touching, poetic monologue of how modern society has 'turned away from the wider world and is looking inward.'
After his BAFTA-winning show Comedy Vehicle was axed by BBC Two, Lee returned to the stage with a 90-minute cultured show with no limits or censorship. It is pure stand-up comedy, where Lee looked to be loving every minute of his political and personal performance.
He took on a new style of punchy, vulgar witticism and mixed it up with his trademark of deconstructing jokes and dry soliloquies with outstanding pay-off.
As much as he kept drawing back to the empty seats, it is by no means a reflection of Stewart Lee's comedic genius which lingers in the mind long after the final act.