Stewart Lee wearing spectacles

Stewart Lee on “Not Writing”

Comedy is subjective. So is writing. I’ve just come across a 45-minute video I felt I had to share. It skirts around both subjects and comes up with some savoury little insights. The video will not please everybody. The comments below it are a testament to that. But anyone who shares my vague interest in the psychology of comedy and love of Stewart Lee should find it fascinating.

Like him or love him, Stewart Lee is a man who knows his allium from his Elba.

I’ll just explain that he started his comedy life in a double-act and writing partnership with Richard Herring. Although their BBC-2 TV shows that aired from 1992-2000 didn’t propel them to the heights of Morecambe and Wise (or even Fry and Laurie), they became cult favourites.

After the split, Stewart gave up performing stand-up comedy for several years, choosing to write instead. He came back with a stronger stand-up act and found himself portrayed within the business as the ‘comedian’s comedian’. Among his writing credits are several books and the controversial play, Jerry Springer The Opera.

Stewart Lee: “On Not Writing”

The talk begins slowly and in a slightly rambling, self-conscious manner. Stick with it and your patience will be rewarded. Writer, comedian and (dare I say it?) intellectual Stewart Lee gives a very interesting talk to Oxford University students about his comedy and the writing of it. It’s a reprise of a talk he gave on a writers’ day in February at the University that wasn’t recorded first time around. The recording is straightforward and low-tech, with some gooey fades.

Lee is entirely open and reveals much about his stand-up technique. There’s a fantastic sequence in which he opens up the box and explains how he puts together a stand-up show: character, mood and how the “flip” comes about at the end. I’ll never be a comedian, I’ll never be much of a writer, but I can admire the technique.