Edinburgh International Book Festival
19th August, 2016
Apparently Stewart Lee wrote a column in The Guardian for five years. Did you read it? I didn’t. It’s a shame, because it sounds funny. If you’re cheap like me you could probably just google Stewart Lee Column Guardian and read some of them. But Stewart Lee wants you to buy his book. Its a collection of his “best ones” with bits added from the Guardian Comments Section – a smorgousboard of extremism, Lee-inspired satire, and the kind of things said by weirdos you overhear on the bus. It’s sort of like Jimmy Fallon’s thing where celebrities read mean tweets about themselves, but I think Stewart Lee came up with it first.
Lee is like the Borges of stand up comedy (if you don’t know who Borges is, then you’re probably the kind of person who hates pretentious literary references to Argentinian writers from the early 20th century who played with form and absurdity in their writing, namely by using things like dictionaries and encylopedias and the like to disrupt meaning blah blah blah yawn blah). I’m really proud of that analogy. Anyway, it was pretty cool to hear Stewart Lee talk about his book because (cue cuntish posh voice) as a writer and former English student, its like so fascinating to hear a comedian deconstructing comedy, and describing the way it relates to theatre and narrative.
But he didn’t do any stand up
I should have know that going in, because this was a promotional event about his book after all. It’s sort of like a meat eater going to a vegan restaurant and secretly hoping there will be bacon bits.
The event was good because Stewart Lee is a seasoned performer and genuinely very funny, but I don’t think there was as much chemistry between Ian Rankin and Stewart Lee as there could have been. If Ruth Wishart and Lionel Shriver were like Fry and Laurie, then Ian Rankin and Stewart Lee were like two strangers flirting badly on a bus. Book events are like that though. It was a good event, and I wrote a bunch of quotes down, but none of them seem funny in the cold hard light of my shit illegible handwriting. The Edinburgh Book Festival is cool because you see some of your favourite writers and public figures in a different light. But I do feel like the experience was similar to seeing Madonna photos before they’ve been airbrushed. You’re like, I knew she wasn’t that perfect, and I’m still impressed but you feel a bit weird.
Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan