Wednesday, October 17, 2018

How I wrote Content Provider, man

Quite why Lush are hosting such content on their website I'm not sure - but they should be applauded for facilitating the existence of this, an interview with Stewart Lee conducted by journalist and music writer John Robb during Lee's recent tour for Content Provider.

During the course of their hour-long chat, Lee offers his thoughts on everything from the regional identity of different cities and their audiences, as well as his own; the challenges and pleasures of performing to hostile Leave voters; the connection between his musical tastes and his approach to comedy (he's unsure whether his love for The Fall, dub reggae, free jazz and krautrock stimulated a fascination with repetition and improvisation within a framework, or vice versa); and the importance of making a stand-up show unique and "really worth it" by allowing himself to be diverted by shouts and heckles. Along the way, he mentions in passing that he's met fellow Stoke Newington resident Thurston Moore (now there's an interview I'd be very keen to see), that one of his ambitions is to facilitate a meeting and collaboration between Pam Ayres and John Cooper Clarke, and that he's fascinated by a gay music hall entertainer who was renowned for having a chicken on a lead...

Lee regularly targets certain fellow comics as part of his act (and here he confesses to having to escape a bar full of them at the Galway Comedy Festival), but he's no mean-spirited egotist - on the contrary, in conversation with Robb (as ever) he proves himself to be a serious and enthusiastic student of comedy history. Ted Chippington is celebrated as a source of inspiration, someone who showed the aspiring Lee that it was possible to have (or at least feign) complete disregard for your audience. In the early days of "alternative comedy", Lee recalls, stand-ups were most often seen supporting bands - a tradition that he has himself recently resurrected by going out on the road with punk veterans The Nightingales.

Content Provider was at least partly notable for the incorporation of reflections on the issue of topicality and the way that events can render jokes irrelevant - something that Lee not only achieved without compromising on the actual laughs but managed to make funny in and of itself. It's an issue he touches on with Robb, too, in the course of admitting that he's now resigned to taking a year or so off, to see how the dust settles on Brexit in particular. Whenever he does feel the time is right to return, you can bet he'll have something worth saying, and something worth listening to.

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