Friday, October 26, 2012

Arsenal v Schalke

The Germans always bring a good crowd. I saw Dortmund play here last year, and their fans were the same as Schalke's - energetic, loud and uncannily well-drilled. It's almost as if the Germans are suckers for organisation. Someone conducts them, and they en masse do their thing. Waving their scarves en masse. Jumping up and down en masse. Going "Yo!" or the German equivalent en masse. And their singing goes on for ever. None of this twice round & out, quickly, for fear of being the last man singing; instead they repeat a refrain for ten minutes, the drummer leading them off and the effect is almost meditative.

Away fans are generally louder and better organised than the home mob, especially in Europe, where the evening kick off gives the visitors an entire day of travelling to get drunk in, whereas the hosts are mostly straight from work, a few pints on the way if they're lucky, and none at the ground. Of course some home fans - those in the lower leagues, or at the unfashionable end of the Premiership - are all about the roar. Portsmouth fans once so impressed Thierry Henry, as their team was crushed 5-0 at Fratton Park, that he gave them a special mention on the BBC. They were doing what the Germans were doing: singing throughout, though the Germans didn't have the decency to concede five.

It's something about supporting a team as opposed to watching them. If you support them, as a fan, you're energised in the cause, you're yelling and shouting and chanting because for a start your team dearly needs the help and also because even if you can't win - or especially if you can't win - on the pitch, at least on the terrace singing "your support is fucking shit" will stick one over your rival fans. But club success breeds a different fan, who doesn't so much support as expect, and when their expectations are dashed then they deride, and they're the ones paying £60 a match at Arsenal, the deriders. Sixty quid for a comfy seats and Wengertainment on the pitch. Wengertainment - which used to imply astonishing football and now implies astonishing shooting of your own foot - doesn't really lend itself to crowd passion, it inspires reverence, sitting back and absorbing, not yelling your head off in the hope your shout can somehow draw the ball goalwards.

But then Wengertainment's taken a lot of knocks over the last ten years, a steady sandpapering of a once flawless idol, and the buying of second-rate polish hasn't fooled anyone, not least the crowd, who booed at the final whistle, booed their own team's mediocre showing. I don't blame them booing, but it's hard to imagine that well-drilled German unit booing even if Arsenal had turned up and blasted Schalke off the park. Even if we do that back in Schalke, I imagine (I might be wrong) that the Germans would take too much pride in their own performance, the fans I mean, too much pride and dignity to be caught booing their own team. I mean that's the end then isn't it, you've lost, as a fan, when you boo your own team. You're not fulfilling the fan's role. You're booing them. You're not a supporter, you're something else. An expector, perhaps. Some might say - and I would sympathise with them - that their support comes in the form of sixty bloody quid a game - and here again the Germans stand out, with their ticket prices about what ours were when Wenger first arrived - so once you've supported the team, by keeping it afloat, you can bloody well let a bomb off in the stadium and it doesn't discount it and that's the football we've got ourselves.

The Highbury Library and the boo boys won't be solved by Arsenal winning stuff again, nor by them losing stuff again. Standing would help at least allow those inclined to choir to congregate together, but who knows where we can find the attitude of supporting, of cheering them on, instead of expecting, of booing them off.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The problem with this winning lark

I, like more or less everyone else who was unable to get out of London for the Olympics, have really been enjoying it, revelling in the fact that I was unable to get out of London and have been able to be part of the spectacle, which has mainly consisted of me watching it on telly and occasionally considering trying to buy a ticket. I've been hanging over the Wikipedia entries on Olympic cycling rules like a bad smell, hoping to just about understand the latest Omnium event before it finishes, and I have been regurgitating spurious info on the metal composition of the medals or the chemical composition of Victoria Pendleton’s underwear to passing motorists; in short I’ve been an Olympic cheerleader, although not an Olympic-standard cheerleader, but I’ve got down with the programme and shouted at the right times and generally tried to forget my last seven years of doomsaying and overall Olympic badmouthing that attentive readers may possibly recall.

And yet, and yet, something’s not right here, Stanley. Something’s just not A-OK. I don’t mean the panem et circuses element, which Andy Worthington alludes to here, nor the subjugation of athletic prowess to the myth of the State, which Mike Marqusee considers here; although I don’t know why not, because they’re both right and worth reading, and I speak as a great panum eater and circuses watcher; anyway I’m not really talking about the distracting of a crushed populace with illusionary visions of success and national unity while stealing the roofs over their heads stuff, I’m more talking about sport, competition and especially winning.

I’m not really one of nature’s winners – a whiner maybe – or at least I never win unless I absolutely have to, an attitude born largely of intense laziness, and also probably due to being well looked after as a youngster and as a result generally feeling safe and secure and complacent and spoilt. I do know how to win, in that I have occasionally stirred myself to victory over someone in something, or at least I imagine I have done, but generally winning is something to be looked down upon, a consolation for inadequate types, who can’t just be happy sitting in their underwear at 3 in the afternoon.

And much as I cheered Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis and the rest I am struck with unease at their celebrations and those of the crowd – what are they so blinking happy about? That they won? Why? Someone had to. It was them, this time. They’re like: all that hard work paid off, while next to them someone else who put in presumably an equal amount of hard work – or even more, in the case of Usain Bolt’s rivals – are going “I’m so sorry, I let everyone down, I’m so sad and useless” and if they lived in Imperial Japan would probably be expected to go and commit hari-kari right there and then and I’m left asking: Why? Why are you sad, why are you happy? “Because I won!” says the winner; “Because I lost!” says the loser. And I understand that, I do, I get it, but still I’m left thinking: So what? It’s a bit me, me, me isn’t it this winning lark? (While all of the crowd are going: it’s us, us, us!) And once you're about 13, aren't you expected to sort of get over it?

It’s strangely self-absorbed and the more I think about it the more unfathomable it seems. It’s not achieving the unachievable, breaking down barriers, climbing Everest or running under 4 minutes (and even most of these descended into races between frankly deranged individuals), it’s just being better than the other guy, whoever he is. It's the irrelevance of it that is so striking. It's just a game, just for sport. And you've only overcome another person; a person who on another day might have just as well beaten you. Of course I can understand the satisfaction of winning, and getting a 92.6% silver medal coated in gold for your pains, of completing a goal that has taken an entire life of dedication, robbed you of the pleasures of youth and which will bequest to you an old age of knacked knees, and yet, when all is packed up in the wheelie bin of life, what good is it if you have to have a loser beside you to make you a winner?

Friday, August 03, 2012

It goes in cycles – a short story

“Hold your fucking horses, bike boy.”

The cyclists crushed his brake handles in shock, crushed them so hard his tendons stung and he felt the imprint of the handles dig into his palms. The bike screeched to a stop, the back wheel rearing up behind him, and he wobbled on the spot, partly off balance, mostly out of fear.

Superman was stomping towards him, cape billowing, ground quivering, bright boots kicking through the thin puddles. No-one else was around. Hardly any windows, and only a few birds, overlooked the quiet side street. The cyclist wanted to look round, wanted to turn his head, but he was too frightened. His stomach wrung like a towel at each of Superman's approaching steps.

“Now tell me,” said the Man of Steel, when he was close enough that the cyclist could feel his breath rasping against his ear. “Do you know what a red light is for?”

The cyclist spoke, but said nothing, unable to muster the air to stir his vocal chords. He looked down at his bike, as if it was responsible; either for his dereliction or his feeble lungs. The bike in turn, as if equally ashamed, wobbled beneath him, then the front wheel twisted out, and it collapsed in a heap. The cyclist, still without looking at Superman, dropped his head a little more.

“Well?” asked the only surviving son of the planet of Krypton. “You know the rules of the road?”

“I do sir,” rasped the cyclist, finally, looking bolt ahead.

“And what are they for?” the costume-clad superhero spat, glad to have a response and not just be yelling at a mute.

“Stopping traffic.”

“Right. And you? Are you traffic?”

“I am sir.”

“You are traffic, yes indeed, you are. And tell me, did you stop at the red signal?”

“No sir,”  said the cyclist sadly.

“And why not?”

Superman’s breath was heating up now, and the cyclist wondered if it was going to singe the hairs on the back of his neck. 

“I don’t know sir.”

“You don’t know do you? That's a pretty pathetic answer, if you ask me.” The breath was hot. You could probably cook on that breath. It was like a bunsen burner.

That breath. A superhero's breath. That breath had been up the noses of some of the greatest master criminals of the modern day. It had blown in the faces of Presidents and Vice-Presidents, berated evil dictators and tantalised the necks of the world's most beautiful women. And now it scorched a cyclist's ear. How times had changed. The paparazzi had a lot to answer for, that was for sure. 

There was a pause, and it occurred to the cyclist that he should probably say something, some kind of entreaty, but he had no idea what that might be, and in any case it felt infinitely safer to just remain silent, as if things would only get worse if he spoke. But Superman didn’t speak either, and the cyclist began to worry now quite considerably that he was probably meant to say something, something clever or apologetic, or whatever it had to be, in order to stop the tireless fighter for peace, justice and the American way from drop-kicking him over a skyscraper, or bionically lobbing him into a special flat glass prison and Frisbee-throwing it into outerspace, or just delivering him to the police, arms bent back in a completely unnecessary and much too harshly applied full Nelson, because superheroes don’t know their own strength – I mean how can they – and they probably injure far more captives than they mean to, even when they don’t mean to.

The cyclist bit his lip. Still nothing occurred to him. Then Superman spoke again, only he was much quieter, and his voice echoed about the buildings.

“Hey you, pick up that litter!”

And the cyclist turned his head, saw Superman some fifty yards down the road, berating a middle-aged woman in ill-matched woollens. He picked up his bike and made off, pedals rattling beneath his shaking feet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

and the world remained silent

Wednesday's Times has an Olympic-related guide to the Most Arseachingly Pretentious Businesses in East London. As you might imagine, it’s a wide field. Contestants (with quotes from their websites or The Times) include

The Boundary Rooftop Restaurant
The space is replete with a large sail-like canopy, heating, festoon lighting and Welsh blankets

The Loft Project
The Loft Project is an experiment in food and people, set within an intimate and beautifully considered environment in East London

We pride ourselves on our unique range of bespoke locally-sourced cakes

Crate Brewery & Pizzeria
Pizzas are to die for. Favourites include the sweet Middle Eastern Lamp with pinenuts and apricot or the sweet potato with Gorgonzola and walnuts

Ruby’s Basement Bar
Blackberry mojitos are served in original 1940s milk bottles

Twenty years on from being scared to walk down Kingsland High Road at night, I am now scared to walk down Kingsland High Road at any time.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

cost of poverty

Brilliant (& tragic) bit of povo-writing from Memoirs of a Heroinhead on the highs and lows of the Argos catalogue. We also used to flick from page to page in a rush of desire & hope (but we were disciplined: you had to choose one thing from every page, no matter how much you didn't want ladies' jewellery or shaving products). However, our sojourns into the cottonworld citadel of Argos were soft play compared with this.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Daniel Kitson, The Hob

Daniel Kitson, the bearded bespectacled behemouth of British comedy, as close to a comic genius as we've got in this country, a real natural, a genuine funny-boned amusatron, is back in the room. He's been away for a couple of years, but now he's back, back with that effortless funny, you know, the kind that is just funny cos it's funny, it doesn't even have to be true, it could be untrue and it would still be funny, that's how funny it is. Funny.

He's back, he's been away, he says he got bored of comedy, he's started to hate it partly because it's like the new Carling or something, but mainly he says because it was too easy, it was as easy as taking a shit, he says, it just came out, so he veered off into theatre, and I don't want to just regurgitate his act so i'll just say that he says his theatre is like his comedy except slightly different but he says it in a joke. But right now he's doing £3 shows upstairs in a South London pub, trying out his stuff, working it out, for his big tour in the future, his big comeback, but the truth is he's not even really working it out really, because he already knows what out of his material is good and he's bored of it already. Instead what he's doing is he's just working out, getting into training, limbering up. He's not even doing the material he's going to do on the tour, he's just riffing. It's a bit of a comedy masterclass, a bit of one, he shows you the working out, the thought processes that go into the finished articles, and he's keeping it all as fresh as he can and if it starts to flag at any point he's got the comedy chops to draw it back up, at his leisure, so it's no risk, even for the crowd.

He's generous, our Daniel Kitson, to a fault. Two hours he does and by the end it's too much, who the hell wants to listen to someone for two hours? Seriously, no matter how funny, two hours listening to one person is straining at the limit, it wears you out, but you can't complain because it's only £3, so what if he does too much and you're gasping for a pint at the end.

Of course I couldn't help comparing him to Stewart Lee, obviously since he's also a generous comedian, and also because I saw him the other day, and I think I'm going to say that Daniel Kitson is funnier than Stewart Lee the way that, well, I was going to compare Daniel Kitson to Stevie Wonder in 1973, and Stewart Lee to maybe I dunno someone quite good, with a few hits under their belt, but not as accomplished, or perhaps not as natural as Stevie Wonder, um let's say the Commodores, but to be honest the comparison seems stupid now and I don't want to make it, but the truth is that I can't imagine Daniel Kitson ever doing some of the slightly laboured tactics that Stewart Lee was indulging in the other day, because Daniel Kitson could get comic material out of an empty bag of crisps and Stewart Lee, well maybe he can but he doesn't want to, that's what he'd have you believe, I suppose, that he's above the tragic business of making people laugh. Which I can understand. I can get that. Why would you want to make people laugh, just because you're a stand-up comic, sorry, just because you've been defined as a stand-up comic, actually that's just the capitalism talking, yeah right, that's just the fucking factory system putting us all into boxes, me into a sort of factory-worker box, office bunny box, you into a stand-up comic box but you're more than that, You're more than making people laugh, you're a visionary at the vanguard of making people laugh, You're pushing the boundaries of making people laugh and think and therefore you're fully prepared to come and do a let's call it a slow two hours, moaning about your life when actually you're taking home fucking loads of dosh for it.

Which is what Daniel Kitson, in his generous way, alluded to, the spectacular amounts of money that are getting earned by these comedians. Those people you think of as the pinnacle of overpaid, these comedians are up there with them. Even those not caning the TV panel show-arena-tour-DVD circuit, even if you're just doing 400 seaters for tenners, you're still taking home (according to the generous Daniel Kitson) three grand a night. Stewart Lee's tickets, just for the record, were £20. And he was doing 40 nights, in a 420 seater, so very plausibly, even at a conservative estimate he's taking home £5000 x 40, that makes fucking 200 grand for a couple of hours every couple of nights for a couple of months

And he don't even get accused of selling out.

The truth is he was flogging CDs in the booth after the show, so I suspect he's got some pretty heavy gambling debts or a smack habit or something. Well, if he has, maybe he should write a fucking joke about it.

Anyway, back to Daniel Kitson, he's a modern comedic marvel, he came on 15 minutes late, because he'd lost his comedy notebooks just an hour before in the West End and riffed on what had happened for about half-an-hour, you know funny as you fucking like about losing four months of notes, that is the definition of a modern comedic marvel, I mean that's what you're aiming at, really, you don't need material, you are just funny, and then anything you talk about is funny: that's the pinnacle, and Daniel Kitson's in that realm. Admittedly, he did lose me slightly after he'd explained how much money he's making, I guess because so much of stand-up comedy depends on the comedian being somehow a conduit for the crowd, somehow representing us, a funnier, more observant version of us perhaps, but a recognisable us. That's why it's helpful if the comedian's a bit flawed, a bit fat, or needing beer bottle glasses or got a stammer, because we're all like that, or at least we fear we are, and the comedian embodies that part of us, but the truth is once you're raking in £200,000 upwards, those kind of figures, you know, you're not really one of us, you're one of them. Which is what Daniel Kitson was saying.

But Daniel Kitson is a modern comedic marvel, and I know this because after I came out my head was zinging with ideas and stuff, things to say, I was dosed up on creative juice, partly maybe because after just sitting in the dark concentrating on someone else for that long your mind is like a wound-up jack in the box, ready to leap out in all directions the minute you can get a moment to yourself, but also because the best, most creative people in the world light up your brain circuits with their genius, they gift you their genius, and Daniel Kitson did that.

Stewart Lee, to be fair to the fat, sell out jokeless cunt, did also light up my circuits, after I came out of his show I wrote a joke that I later put on twitter and it got one retweet and I mean that in a good way. In actual fact I thought of another gag that was about Stewart Lee not liking people insulting him on twitter (which it turns out they don't do, or at least not nearly as much as they go "wow Stewart Lee's fucking brilliant I love him", but he doesn't read out those quotes because he's not big-headed) and it was to do with if I saw him in Stoke Newington, where he explained in the show that he mopes about a lot, miserable about how much money he's making doing something that he supposedly loves; so if I saw Stewart Lee in Stoke Newington I'd run up to him and say “Oi, Stewart Lee, you fat, miserable jokeless fucking sell out cunt, do you prefer it now with me yelling in your ear in the street, you know, like we used to do in the 1980s, or would you prefer that I went and squeezed my bile into 140 characters that you could quote in your show, would that be better?” And that was my material about Stewart Lee.

But this review is not about Stewart Lee, who I like, I think he's funny, which is why I'm nicking his schtick, this review is about Daniel Kitson, who also earns too much money, footballer money, and he's fucking a very funny fucking guy, you know, like Stewart Lee is, but funnier, and he has the added bonus of actually writing material, because he sort of thinks, at a guess, that that's what it is to be a stand-up comedian, which is what he sees himself doing.

Maybe I'm bitter, I mean I'm not above saying I'm bitter, you know I write this shit, I mean let's be frank, less fewer people are going to read this than could fit into the toilet of the upstairs of the pub where Daniel Kitson did his set tonight, you know, and why's that, because it's bitter ramblings or because as Daniel Kitson generously said, it's mostly down to luck (and making an effort, which I haven't done), and also possibly writing sentences that start and finish on roughly the same topic. You know the sort of thing: selling out. Which brings me to one last question, why isn't it called selling in, there's two kinds of selling out, being a sell out and having a sell out, and one of those two should be called selling in, I don't care which, but one of them, because selling out so often follows selling out that it's hard to know which comes first or, as it happens, what I'm on about.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stewart Lee, Leicester Square Theatre

Everyone's a critic. This has been true for a long time. Probably the phrase originates, like everything else, with the Ancient Greeks; Sophocles or Euripides cursing on their way home after yet another bad night at the Dionysus Odeon. Certainly it stretches back a long way. But it has never been more true (if a true thing can become more true, I don't know, but assuming it can) than these days, with the combination of the internet providing instant gratifying exposure for every one of everyone's faultless and well-considered opinions and a marginally improved literacy among the general population, which means more people than ever have the capacity to etch their thoughts into posterity.

Stewart Lee knows a lot about how everyone is a critic. He's seen it at work (literally). He spends a fair portion of his generous show reading out, in his stately manner, stately or possibly just very slow manner, a string of comments garnered by googling his name. None, it is fair to say, are anything less than critical. Some, you might consider, seem to be verging more on the personal, but still they remain pretty much critical. Such is the effect of hearing the myriad complaints within these mini-critiques that I began to doubt if I should attempt a criticism of Mr Lee's show myself. It appears that all the angles have been covered. I, who hate more than anything the thought that I might be like someone else, feel obliged to not criticise Mr Lee at all. Which is perhaps what he was aiming at, in taking ownership of the comments (And actually I'd note that if you look him up on twitter, the vast majority of comments are complimentary). But, I'll go further, because I'll not criticise Mr Lee with negative criticism or with positive criticism. 

You see there are two kinds of critical. Most people seem to be under the impression (an interesting concept, to be under an impression; the way an ink pad is when you reink a rubber stamp) that there is only one kind: negative criticism. But of course there are two kinds: negative and positive criticism. But I am so concerned with not being like anybody else, I'm willing to forgo the whole god damn caboodle of criticism altogether; to throw the baby out with the bathwater, to avoid the possibility that I might come across like some of the people Mr Lee quoted. Not because they were stupid, however. No, it was the fact that they were so literate that terrified me. Because they had well-constructed sentences, that they obviously thought were clever and this reminded me of myself, and I made a vow never again to write a sentence that I thought was clever, for fear that it should end up being quoted by a scowling Mr Lee as evidence in his general case that the world is a complete load of cunt.

On the other hand, the temptation is to construct a such a perfect reduction of Mr Lee that on a future googling mission (because he collects criticisms, or rather negative criticisms, and quotes them often in his shows, and on his books, like someone used to in the 1980s, I forget who, I think Douglas Adams probably, and it's no irony, because so much of what Stewart Lee does comes straight from the 1980s) he might uncover it and use it in a future show, my internet nom de plume attached. Hero status! What joy could that bring!

Mr Lee does a two hour show. Generous. It's a rare comedian that offers a two-hour show, and then sits in the concession stand afterwards signing DVDs and books, probably trying to scrape the bus fare home, but Mr Lee does it. Two hours! Most comedians do an hour and maybe a bit more. No more than you can fit onto one side of a CD. OK, so he had a break, but still, two hours! Doug Stanhope, who I saw at the same theatre a year or two ago, did two hours, with a break, but in the break they kicked you out and brought in another load of punters for the second half, so my guess is it was exactly the same as the first half. Stewart Lee does two hours! Admittedly, however, if Stewart Lee was to subtract from those two hours his commentary on and deconstruction of his show as it unfolds, if he was to lose that, and possibly also lose the refrain about how he hasn't got any material because all he does is comedy gigs and look after a small child, if he lost all of that, his show could probably have fitted onto one side of a C90 tape; but that's who Stewart Lee is, isn't it. That is Stewart Lee, so that would be like saying if you took all the motherfuckers out of Richard Pryor's act. Which would be a stupid thing to do, and also, truth be told, wouldn't save you very much time anyway.

So Stewart Lee does two hours, a large portion of which is deconstructing his own act as he goes along. Now, Stewart Lee was today in the paper, the Irish Times to be exact (and it's a funny concept, isn't it, being in the paper, you know, as if there's a land far away called the paper and you can be in it once in a blue moon, where was he? Oh he was in the paper, oh yeah, did he have a good time? I went once, oh yeah did you see the great columns? it's a funny concept especially nowadays when almost no-one reads 'the paper' so being in 'the paper' really means I read it on the internet, but then saying Stewart Lee was on the internet this morning doesn't make much sense, unless you were talking about him googling himself in preparation for his show) anyway where was I, oh yes, so Stewart Lee was in the paper today, the Irish Times, saying how all these young comedians are stealing his schtick. He wants to be able to retire, or at least work another 20 years, off his schtick, but all these pesky kids are stealing his schtick and making it seem trite. So he's abandoned his schtick, but all he's got to replace it is this deconstructionism. But here's a problem: deconstructionism is just another gag.

That's the first problem. What's wrong with a gag? Well, gags are considered a low form of comedy nowadays. It used to just be puns that were beneath the pale for the sophisticated comedian, but if we're really truthful the whole idea of gags is a wretched business. The best comedians don't use gags: Richard Pryor never told a gag. Doug Stanhope doesn't tell gags. Louis CK doesn't tell gags. Nor Seinfeld. You might notice all these comedians are American. So did I. I think not telling gags is a more American thing. And the main problem with gags is that they're nickable. You can half-inch a gag. But you can't half-inch Richard Pryor's schtick. Because it would be ridiculous. Eddie Murphy tried, and even he sounded ridiculous. So the first thing is, if people are nicking your schtick, it means it's not really your schtick, it's just a gag, of some kind or another.

So deconstructionism is a gag. Even I, on the few occasions I've tried stand-up, have done it; a bit of self-reflection, commenting on how I'm doing, Brechtian analysis, if you want to be flash, mainly when a joke falls flat, or just generally to make up for the fact that even on a good day my material is whisper thin. Am I to be accused of stealing Mr Lee's deconstructionism schtick? I never did your honour. I hadn't realised that Mr Lee had invented deconstructionism, if it was anybody I thought it was Derrida, but no, apparently it was Mr Lee, because Mr Lee never copies anybody, everything he does is completely original in all things, and he doesn't tell gags either, because he's above that sort of thing.

But he does a lot of deconstructionism, because he hasn't got any material, but that's ok, because he says that! That's the great deconstruction gag, that you haven't got any material but that's ok because you come right out and say it. Leaving aside why you feel the need to do a 40-night run at the Leicester Square Theatre when you haven't got any material (and it can't be for the money, because Mr Lee spends a fair portion of his stage time, in fact some of the best bits in the show are when he curses other, lesser comedians, who prostitute their 'skills' in the low art of making TV shows, for money, the way that Mr Lee wouldn't ever do), leaving aside that point, let's just ask whether the deconstructionism gag is so hilarious and original (obviously original, or Mr Lee would never use it) that it requires to be drawn out at great length, well of course it is and does.

The problem for Mr Lee seems to be that kids have stolen his act, but he's too old and worn out and a dad now to think of anything new, and yet time marches on so he keeps going, and tries to sort of brazen it out by saying: "Look I've got nothing, I'm not lying to you, I'm not pretending" hoping perhaps that something will come to him that will raise this 40-night run out of the philosophical manger in which it was born. Because when he says the show's not really about nothing it's about "idealised notions of society and the idea of how do you get ideas for a show when you don’t have any experiences", what he really means is, I'm hoping a better idea comes along in the course of the show. Well he's over 20 nights in, and it hasn't yet.

On reflection, maybe if he brought in the stuff about the kids stealing his act, the really true stuff, not the pretend true stuff about how he hasn't got any material ("No, no, I really don't") when he secretly he thinks he might do ("idealised notions of society... ok, ok, I really haven't") then it might have brought a touch more freshness in the room. Although a 40-night run could wilt the most blooming of sets. But I'm not here to criticise Mr Lee. I certainly don't hate Mr Lee, like those other people seem to. I like him. He's funny. I'm a bit worried he's running out of material though.

Anyway, dragging this long and slow and tedious essay to its sad, unloved conclusion, it only remains for me to come clean. Because being as I'm called criticalbill, you know I couldn't renounce criticism, not really. Not truly. I'd rather renounce my name, as the Chinese say, when they are really not going to do something. But the reason I forwent criticism of Mr Lee is because of a story he alluded to from his childhood. Mr Lee mentions briefly that he was an orphan, who was then adopted and the reason I won't be horrible about him is because I happen to know that under the tubby, depressive, Morrissey/Phil Jupitus/Terry Christian/Gordon Brown-looking exterior, Stewart is as hard and mean and well-honed as his biological father, Bruce.