My second week of the Leicester Comedy Festival began with Stewart Lee’s ‘A Room with a Stew’ at De Montfort Hall. In these shows Stew is doing bits from his upcoming TV series but also seeing where the wind may blow him on the night. I’ve read Stewart Lee’s book ‘How I Escaped My Certain Fate’ and I reviewed it in this blog as I thought it was brilliant and fascinating. Even having read some of the thought processes he goes through in manipulating audiences I found myself misdirected and bamboozled by the show. Some parts were hysterically funny and others seemed puzzling until he revealed what he had been leading the audience up to all along. I can see why some comedians could be considered artists whereas others are just great comedians. There is something to be said for a lovely night out with cosy, fluffy, fun jokes with perhaps a bit of pathos and a touch of darkness, which are really enjoyable and you go home happy and feel you’ve had value for money. But there are also comedians who take you on an odyssey which is by turns enjoyable, confusing, irritating but ultimately hugely rewarding as at the end you realise you’ve gone through the kind of experience you would have in really good drama. You’ve become involved, taken from where you are to somewhere where you don’t know the rules. Someone is playing with your perceptions and emotions and then you end up somewhere realising you’ve experienced something really special.
After the show I met Stewart Lee and was utterly star-struck. He was really friendly, signed the book I’d bought, and I shook his hand hoping that some of his comedy genius would rub off on me. Slim hope. But what a brilliant mind and extraordinary performer.
The following day saw me visiting Curve again, this time for Count Arthur Strong’s ‘Somebody Up There Licks Me’. Regarding his TV series I have to be honest and say that what I like best about Arthur is when he is just talking, getting tongue-tied, confusing himself and then arguing with himself, but this show is structured to include plenty of that, and also some hilarious set-pieces with his co-stars: hapless tour manager Malcolm, cabaret chanteuse Renee and hopeless tech Eggy. I thought the show was great value for money as it’s a good 90 minutes or so and features plenty of different bits to keep it rolling along, including a brilliant skit involving a monkey. I took the opportunity of getting Arthur’s memoirs from the merch stall, ‘Through It All I’ve Always Laughed’ and I look forward to enjoying the thoughts and ruminations of the great man therein.
Sara Pascoe’s show, ‘The Museum of Robot Pussycats’, took place in the Wee Room at Hansom Hall which looks from inside like a wooden-beamed tower hidden in the bowels of the building. It was a work in progress show which was not quite as advertised in the festival programme which called it a brand new show of brand new material, which is not the same thing. I enjoy work in progress shows, I just wasn’t expecting this to be one of them. However, none of this is Sara Pascoe’s fault and her show was very funny and I’m not going to give away why the show is named as it is. She is certainly a comedian whose unique imagination is one I’m happy to travel along with as she weaves her stories and jokes together through a very enjoyable hour. She makes her audience interaction look effortless with a good spirit and winning charisma. I don’t quite know what the people who came in four minutes before the end were thinking but they missed a really terrific show.
The festival has been brilliant so far and the amount and variety of shows scattered across many venues in the city is amazing. Here’s to my week 3 and the third and final part of my DLCF blog trilogy.