Many a comedian uses their own life to form the basis of their stand-up material and that is certainly the case for Stewart Lee on his latest tour, which comes to the Royal and Derngate on Saturday, March 10.
Stewart said: “The idea of the show is that as a 43-year-old comedian and dad of two, all I ever do is drive around motorways doing gigs, going past all those massive warehouse type shops, or look after children, so I haven’t had time to write anything apart from jokes about things I’ve seen out of the window of the car.
“Of course, this is just a dramatic device and in the end it all ties together beautifully and turns out to have been a devastating critique of society.
“There’s also a load of old carpets in it which are quite expensive to transport around so that explains the high ticket price.
“Being a father definitely has changed my stand-up, but for the better.
“Looking tired and dead suits my act. Also, because I’m too tired to learn anything verbatim the shows are more discursive and naturalistic now, which is good. “
“Also, I used to be very cynical, but when you have kids you can’t take any pleasure in the abject failure of the world.
“You have to hope, for their sake, that things get better, which is an interesting place to do stand-up from.
“I don’t really have any jokes, but people do laugh.
“I do stories and odd ideas really, not jokes as such. If I do a joke it sort of breaks the spell of the show and sticks out like a sore thumb.”
Stewart definitely knows what works for his audience, having been performing comedy as both a solo stand-up and as part of the comedy duo, Lee and Herring.
Over the years he has produced material for shows on BBC Radio 1 and 4 plus two series of Fist Of Fun for BBC Two and a show called This Morning With Richard Not Judy.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though.
In 2001 one, Stewart quit stand-up comedy for three years before returning in 2004 with his show Standup Comedian.
During this time, Stewart was also working on the controversial production, Jerry Springer The Opera, which he co-wrote.
Stewart said: “Jerry Springer The Opera is funny because it’s two different things.
“I co-wrote the words with Richard Thomas. It was his idea and he wrote all the music.
“I’m fed up of talking about it to be honest.
“A far right pressure group called Christian Voice made up a load of lies about its content and stirred up 65,000 people who hadn’t seen it into wanting it banned for being blasphemous, so it basically closed and we never saw any money really for five years’ work.
“I was very proud of the piece but the stress surrounding it means I don’t really like thinking about it.”
Following the controversy, Stewart returned to stand-up and touring the country as well as making a six-part comedy series in 2009 called Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, which went on to win him two gongs at the 2011 British Comedy Awards.
Stewart said: “I found it very confusing, I don’t know who chooses them or where they came from.
“It was a big surprise, I was happy for about 10 seconds and then I just started worrying about whether people would come to see me expecting ‘award winning comedy’ and then just hate what I do.
“I couldn’t go to the ceremony as I was working but when I got home I put the TV coverage of the aftershow party on.
“I saw a load of skittles with the faces of comedians on.
“They had all fallen down apart from one with my face on. And then a woman in a red dress ran up and kicked it over, very violently.
“It was all quite strange really.
“I don’t know what difference being on TV has made to my stand-up.
“More people are coming. But I don’t know if they’re coming to see me, or just someone they’ve heard is on the TV.
“It doesn’t seem to make the shows go any better or worse. There’s still people in that don’t get it. There’s just more people generally in the room.”
n Stewart Lee will be appearing at the Royal and Derngate on Saturday, March 10.
The show starts at 8pm and is suitable for ages 14+.
Tickets cost £18.50, to book call the Box Office on 01604 624811.