This programme contains very strong language and adult humour.
Well, Stewart, hello. I think I’d like to start off by asking… ..how you see yourself at this late juncture of your career? I mean, what is it that you exactly think you’re doing?
I don’t know, and it’s not something that I feel is good enough to be broadcast. I want to stop this now, but there’s always just enough of an inducement to carry on and there doesn’t seem to be any way of bringing it to a close. The series was cancelled. I was told by BBC Two Comedy that they didn’t want any more. Then another bloke sort of intervened and said, “Oh, maybe you should…”
MUSIC DROWNS HIM OUT
People of Southend, Essex, it’s time now to endure the stand-up comedy of the comedian, Stewart Lee!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Thank you for coming. Right. Let’s crack on and tell you what’s happening. So, there’s a number of problems with this show. The main one, right, is that I, OK… I started writing this about 18 months ago, OK? And the idea was it was going to be two hours on the notion of the individual in a digitised free-market economy. OK? And I was going to base it all around this painting, which is Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 German romantic masterpiece Wanderer Above A Sea Of Fog. Now, hopefully you’ve all had the e-mails, and you’ve done the reading you’ll need to have done.
Then I did about a month’s work on that and then the Brexit vote happened, right, and there seemed to an assumption everywhere that I should have written some jokes about Brexit. Now, I haven’t written any jokes about Brexit, cos I was trying to write a show that I could keep on the road for 18 months and as I didn’t know how Brexit was going to pan out, I didn’t write any jokes about it in case I couldn’t use them in the show and monetise the work I’ve done, right? So, I haven’t written any jokes about Brexit, cos I didn’t see the point of committing to a course of action for which there’s no logical or financial justification.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
That’s right, clap the things you agree with!
Clap, clap, clap! Agree, agree, agree! “Did you see Stewart Lee in Southend?” “Yeah.” “Was it funny?” “No, but I agreed the fuck out of it.”
“It’s almost as if it were targeted at my exact social demographic, “in a cynical attempt to maintain a future-proof audience for long-term “mortgage repayment purposes.” Can it be, Southend, that the future of Britain, Europe, Southend, the world, has been altered forever as a result, it would appear, of the ongoing competitive rivalry of a small group of competitive posh men, right? It looks like that’s what’s happened. When he was a student, David Cameron put his penis into a dead pig’s face, didn’t he?
And then to outdo him, to do something even more bizarre and obscene, Michael Gove put his penis into a Daily Mail journalist.
Imagine doing that! Euuurgh! Euuuuuurgh! EUGH! Caustic wit, that, like Toby Young. You like it?
And then to outdo him, to do something even more sick-making and wrong, Boris Johnson put himself into the role of Foreign Secretary.
And if you think it’s funny that Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary, and it is, arguably, I guarantee you he’s going to be Prime Minister at some point. Theresa May has been put in place, it’s now clear, by the steering committee as a sort of palate cleanser. Isn’t she? Kind of a…
..a nasty-tasting mouthwash that you swill around your gums before being forced to eat actual human shit.
A lot of casualties, weren’t there, in the Brexit shake-up? A lot of people, you know, Michael Gove and Sarah Vine, they sort of disappeared initially but they’re back now, aren’t they? Michael Gove and Sarah Vine. And they’re currently trying to reinvent themselves as the amusing celebrity political couple for young millennials so jaded they no longer find Neil and Christine Hamilton quite sickening enough.
Michael Gove and Sarah Vine are the Neil and Christine Hamilton for the Two Girls One Cup generation.
LAUGHTER AND GROANING HE SNORTS
Yeah, well… That’s a shame. So…
OK, here’s what’s happened, right? This is two nights in Southend and, right, I am aware Southend’s not really my target sort of town, but this was at a nice Victorian theatre, the theatre… The theatre was available. And…
Well, it’s just that’s normally the first big laugh of the night, that… ..joke there. With the…
But we’ve got a lot of people here. You’ve got the sort of target audience here, sort of comedy fans and people that know about, about the politics and stuff. And then it’s… I’ve put on too many dates in Southend, basically, there’s no…
Look at these people, this isn’t my crowd, is it? Look at that, Essex. Essex filth. People that have…
Market traders on the run from London, aren’t they?
Lost their nerve and come to live in the white supremacist theme park…
Should have been a bigger laugh, that, honestly, that Michael Gove joke, it’s a…
It’s a good joke. So, h… W… Have people brought friends with them? Cos that often makes it go worse, if people…
I know what’s happened, people that used to come and see me in the little cellar at the Pavilion like 30 years ago, you’ve gone, “Oh, he’ll never fill the Palace Theatre Southend for two nights. “Let’s help him out and we’ll buy four tickets, “and we’ll bring Alan and Claire,” and they’re…
They’re sitting next to you, your mates, nudging you and going, “Is this him, is this the main one?
“Is it just this all night? “Just a man complaining about things?” Yes, it is, until at least ten o’clock.
Don’t bring your friends because it’s filled it up with the wrong people, hasn’t it?
So, this perfectly serviceable stuff is floundering.
It’s not help… I don’t need your help to fill up. This is all sold out.
If you’re going, “No, it isn’t, Stew, there’s two there “for starters,” right, they’re… All the seats are sold, right? Everything’s sold. What’s happened to me in the last few years, and I don’t really understand why, right, but I’ve become popular enough that the ticket touts buy these seats, Stub Hub and that, and they try and resell them online. But I’m not popular enough for anyone in Southend to pay six times over the odds…
Don’t imagine that disheartens me, those empty seats. Someone’s bought them, right? So, I’ve got the money. It’s fine.
It’s actually better cos it means I’ve got the money but there isn’t one of your stupid friends sitting in them going, “What are these nouns, how do words work?” You know… LAUGHTER That’s my dream – an entirely sold out empty room.
Which would eliminate the main problem with all my work, which is the public’s ongoing inability to recognise its genius. It’s…
This is a very difficult time in history to do stand-up and I would appreciate your blanket support, to be honest. It’s very… It’s very… Look, I went back on the road in September, I did a week in Oxford, right? That’s Remain. Then I did Doncaster. That’s Leave. Then I did Glasgow, Remain. Dartford, Leave. This is about 60-40 in favour of Leave, wasn’t it? And the Remain-voting cities, now, they loom out of the map, don’t they? Like fantasy citadels in a Tolkien-esque landscape. LAUGHTER Wondrous walled cities full of wizards and poets…
..and people who could understand data.
In the middle of a vast, swampy fen, with, “Here there be trolls” written over it.
Yeah, down here, laughter up there. People going, hang on… “Trolls, Stew? “That’s not a very fair way, you know… “We are in Leave-voting Southend-on-Sea. “Trolls, that’s not a very fair way to describe the English and Welsh “majority that exercised their democratic right to vote “to leave the EU.” And it isn’t, to be fair.
You know, and I think, look, we’re going to leave the EU. That is happening. And I think people have got to put their differences behind them now and try and make it work. And I don’t know if you can make massive generalisations about people that voted to leave Europe anyway because people voted to leave Europe for all sorts of different reasons, you know, and it wasn’t just racists that voted to leave Europe. LAUGHTER
Cunts did as well, didn’t they?
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Stupid fucking cunts.
LAUGHTER NASALLY: ..and people with legitimate anxieties about ever-closer political ties to Europe.
“Dear Palace Theatre Southend…
“..please inform the comedian, and I use that word advisedly…”
“..Stewart Lee, who I had the misfortune of being taken along “to see by friends last night…”
“..that I actually voted to leave Europe, “and I am neither a racist nor a cunt…”
“..merely someone with genuine anxieties “about ever-closer political ties to Europe. “Yours, A Cunt.”
That’s where they live, isn’t it? Burnham-on-Crouch. You know what? I don’t know anything about Burnham-on-Crouch. I just drove through it, I thought, “That’ll do for that joke.”
It’s the first time it’s got a laugh.
So… Yes, welcome to the music hall. So… No, but it’s difficult. You can’t make massive… To be fair, you can’t make massive generalisations about people that voted to leave Europe. People did vote to leave Europe for all sorts of different… They did, don’t snigger away down there! They voted for all… You know, not everyone that voted to leave Europe wanted to see Britain immediately descend into being an unaccountable single party state, exploiting people’s worst prejudices to maintain power indefinitely. Some people just wanted bendy bananas, didn’t they? “Aw, no! “I only wanted bendy bananas… “and now there’s this chaotic inferno of hate.” “Ah well, never mind. “At least the bananas are all bendy again, aren’t they? “Like they always fucking were.”
A lot of people voted to leave Europe as a protest vote, which, I understand that, I sympathise with it. If you spend your life driving around the country, like me, you can see the disparity that would drive that. My best friend of 35 years, Ian, actually voted to leave Europe as a protest vote. But I believe it was I who wrote…
Still these people doing the work, isn’t it? Down here, there’s a…
There’s a big laugh there that was missed, right, and I’m filming this, and I would appreciate…
OK, where… What… Where the… Do you know what? I’m going to try. I’m going to try and sort this out now, for the filming, so… Where the laugh should have been there, right, is when I went…
SMALL GROUP LAUGHS
I know you know, it’s…
“I know, sir!”
The kind of people that like me, innit?
The people that are with him hate him, because he goes to them, “Have you not heard of Stewart Lee? He’s amazing, I can’t believe it. “Probably the best comedian… “No, he’s not been on Live At The Apollo, obviously. “You know, I think when you’ve seen him, “you can’t really watch other comedians. “It’s more like art, really.” Yeah. The kind of people that like me, innit? Wankers, basically. But, you know, without them, that was… OK, the laugh there should have been when I said… “I believe it was I who wrote,” right? What they’re laughing at down there, they’re going, “Oh, yeah, he’s parodying the idea,” the perception of myself as a sort of patronising elitist who would quote his own work as a… But, you know, you’re just going, “What an arrogant man,” aren’t you? Up there, so it’s not… But anyway, try and listen in and close the gaps up because we need to…
So, I believe it was I who wrote…
I don’t accept the second laugh. I only take the first one, so… It was me, it was in the Observer, it was a very clever piece. David Mitchell’s ill a lot, isn’t he? So… I wrote, “Voting to leave Europe as a protest vote “is a bit like shitting your hotel bed as a protest against bad service “and then realising you now have to sleep in a shitted bed.” And my friend Ian, my best friend, Leave voter, he said to me, “Your metaphor doesn’t make sense, Stew.” He said, “By your own admission, “the EU is institutionally flawed and freedom of movement “can lead to exploitation of the labour market, so in a way,” he said, “There was already some shit in the bed.” And I said, “Yes, Ian, but if there’s already some shit “in the bed, you don’t fix that “by doing even more shit… “..into the already shatted bed.” And my friend Ian said, “No, you move into a different bed.” And I said, “Yes, Ian, but what if that different bed, “instead of some shit, “has got Boris Johnson in it?” And my friend Ian reluctantly conceded that he would remain in the original shatted bed. Now, that joke initially appeared in the Observer, as I said, leading to a lively below-the-line online debate amongst readers as to whether the past participle of shit was shatted or shitted. Very much a key market for me, those people. The left-leaning, scatological pedant community.
But the out-of-touch metropolitan liberal elites, they didn’t see that Brexit vote coming, did they? The out-of-touch, metropolitan, liberal elites. Who are the metropolitan liberal elites? Well, according to Garry Bushell, in the Daily Star, if you’re in my audience, it’s you. And never has that been less true than it is here tonight, in Southend-on-Sea…
LAUGHTER AND CHEERING
..in a hive of racists. So… Who are… Who are the metropolitan liberal elite? The metropolitan liberal elite, I think, are… They’re the sort of people who preferred the Labour Party in the ’90s, when they looked like a load of coke dealers at an advertising agency… ..as opposed to now, when they look like Catweazle and his army of furious tramps. Fighting each other to the death over the last bottle of Diamond White… ..in a burning skip in a Lidl car park.
I live in London, in N16, north London, which is classic out-of-touch metropolitan liberal elites’ territory. N16, north London. This is how out of touch the metropolitan liberal elite are, where I live, in north London. The weekend before the vote, the Brexit vote, a bloke I vaguely know, he sent out a tweet and he said, “Don’t worry about the Brexit vote,” he said. “I’ve just been out for brunch in a gastropub in Islington, “and absolutely no-one there’s voting to leave.” So, in a way, they had it coming, didn’t they? With their spiralisers… Yeah, the courgettes taste the same, don’t they? Whatever shape the… That tells you a lot about the room, doesn’t it? Look, down here, amongst the elite, the spiraliser jokes, they’re going, “Ah-ha!” And as we spread up there, friends of the theatre, “What is a spiraliser?” And then right at the top, some lone usher, “What’s a courgette?” The joke… The joke failing on three levels. Three levels, simultaneously. Only I can give you this, triple simultaneous joke failure, there. So…
But, er, whatever your line of work, whatever your politics, you’re going to be affected by the Brexit. I am a content provider in my job, and I’ve spent the best part of three decades now travelling around the country, providing stand-up comedy content from a sort of centre-left, liberal position. I’ve done very well out of it, I’m not going to lie. But the problem I’ve got now is, how do you write a one-size-fits-all stand-up show to tour around divided Brexit Britain? It is very difficult. You know, you might have a joke Tuesday night, you’re in Harrogate, Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow – round of applause. Next night, Lincoln – glassed in the face. By the Mayor! So, I don’t know what this show’s going to be when I finally abandon it at the end of the month. All I know is, whatever it ends up being, it will always open with the following sentence… So, my multiple British Comedy and Bafta award-winning BBC Two series got cancelled. Presumably because it was unprecedentedly critically acclaimed, whilst also being incredibly cheap to make. Although I notice there is money at the BBC for a proposed remake of Are You Being Served?. Educate, innovate, entertain.
The weird thing, I think, about trying to remake Are You Being Served? at the moment is that the British retail industry doesn’t really exist any more, does it? The new Are You Being Served? should be set in an Amazon delivery warehouse. Mrs Slocombe stands in a massive shed off the M6… ..making incomprehensible cat-based double entendres… ..about her own vagina… ..to loads of poorly-paid and soon-to-be-deported Eastern European workers.
No, again, nothing from you on that? It’s a big… A big news story, that, the, uh… Actually, you know what? That used to be… All last year, that was a big laugh, that joke, but it’s sort of gone off the boil since Christmas. It’s not really your fault. It stopped working, that joke, and I was, um… I was trying to think why it was. It was good. All last year, it worked. What it is, I think, is… OK, if you think about how stand-up works, right? Basically, you either overstate a perceived truth for comic effect or you overstate a contrary position for comic effect, and all stand-up is basically those two binary positions recombined. Er… Yeah, that’s ruined it for everyone, hasn’t it? That’s bankrupted Netflix. But, um… But… So, why that was working last year was because the perception was, wasn’t it, that the Europeans weren’t being told they could stay after Brexit, and that was a sort of negotiating tool for Theresa May in Brussels. So, I’d go… “..soon-to-be-deported Eastern European workers” and the audience would go, “Ha-ha, yeah, that’s true! Ha-ha,” like that. But then… The last gig I did before Christmas was December 9th, and I did that joke in London and it sort of went off half-cocked, like tonight. And I thought, well, why is that? There’s normally some reason. So, I went home and I googled it. And what had happened that day, or the day before – and I didn’t know, but the audience obviously did – was that in Brussels, Theresa May had said that Europeans could remain after Brexit. So, I went, “Soon-to-be-deported Eastern European workers,” and some people went “Ah-ha!”, and then other people with them went, “No, she said they can stay now.” “Is that right, yeah? “Oh, it’s not funny, then.” So… That was the last gig before Christmas. The next one was January 2nd and I thought, “Maybe I should cut that line,” but I didn’t want to, cos it gets me from the joke about Amazon into another joke about charity shops, right? And it’s just a smooth… Erm… So I thought, I’ll hold on to it, see what happens, you know? And then… So, I did it again, January 2nd. And it’s a well-constructed joke, as well. I know that, cos it goes… It goes, “Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na… “soon-to-be-deported Eastern European workers.” Bang, like that. It’s got a hard… It ends on, or near, a hard consonant, which is important, as well. “Work…workers.” Bang, like that. That’s how you… If you look at Frankie Boyle or Jimmy Carr, all their jokes end on hard consonants. Bang! And that sort of triggers the laugh. With me, it’s a little bit different. I… I don’t always end on a hard consonant. Sometimes, I’ll put an extra beat in after it. And that’s why a lot of you are sitting there going, “This guy’s hilarious, but I don’t know why.” And it’s because I’m, um… The comics you go and see normally, they’re sort of in 4/4 time, but I’m like… It’s like a jazz thing, really. It could go… I know where the beat is, but I’m… It’s probably too advanced, what I’m talking about. So it’s, um… I’m not saying it’s better than them, but it’s…
WHISPERS: Yeah, it is. Well, it’s… But, so… Anyway, I did it again on January 2nd, “Soon-to-be-deported Eastern European workers,” bang! And there was even less laughs than three weeks previously. So, I thought, “Well, what’s going on here?” So, I went and looked on all the news. What had happened – I didn’t know – was a few days after Theresa May had said the Europeans could stay after Brexit, somebody, a reporter, said to David Davis, the negotiator, they said to him, “So, the Europeans can stay?” And he went, “Well, we said that in Brussels, but we can just change it, “we don’t have to abide by it.” So, I think what happened on the night was, I went, “Soon-to-be-deported Eastern European workers,” and somebody went, “Ah, yeah,” and other people went, “No, Theresa May said they could stay.” “Oh.” And then someone else went, “No, David Davis has said it’s…” And in that moment, the laugh had gone, really. Because if you think about it… ..laughter’s a very instinctive thing, isn’t it? You just laugh. You don’t sort of canvass opinion about people around you and then decide… So, it doesn’t work, that joke, but what I’m saying is, it’s not my… It’s not my fault. It’s because there’s not…there’s… We don’t know what the Government position is, so it’s… You can’t write a joke in relation to it when it’s not clear… Do you see what I’m saying? What I’m saying is, there’s not… It’s not my… There’s not enough… The problem is, at the moment, there’s not enough clarity in the negotiating position for that joke to work. Do you know, I dread to think how this is affecting people in other lines of work, because… You know, I mean, I’m… I’m trying to… I’m just trying to get a joke that would get me from Amazon to charity shops, and the lack of clarity in the Brussels negotiations means it’s… You know, what if you’re trying to order staff or supplies? It’s just… I’m not trying to make this all about me. I’m saying it’s a bigger… You know, whatever your politics, you’ve got to admit it, it’s a difficult… I mean, I don’t know if there’s enough trained negotiators in this country for vast swathes of this show to ever be funny again, to be honest. But, anyway, what I’m saying is, it’s… It used to be a big… ..uh, laugh there, but the, the… ..the circumstances haven’t so much changed as they’ve just become unclear, so it’s very difficult to know whether to cut it or rewrite it, because you could change it, couldn’t you? And then the next thing you know… You…
Who even goes shopping now? Yeah, see, that feels weird now. Cos that’s… That’s supposed to come off the back of, “Blah-blah-blah, Amazon – who even goes shopping now?” Who even goes shopping now? Even the… Ugh, come on! Even… Yes, we can hear one person clapping on their own. You know, that’s the terrible thing, I’ve got hearing… I’ve got hearing aids now, the last couple of years. So, in the silence, I can hear one man clapping, and sort of encouraging, patronising… “Go on!” People up there, the friends of the theatre, I can hear them going, “He doesn’t seem to be able to do stand-up”. I can, I… I’m very good at it! I can do what you think stand-up is, this is what you like, isn’t it?
CHIRPILY: “Who even goes shopping now?! “Who goes shopping now?! Ooh!” “I don’t, do you? No, ooh!” That’s what you like, innit? Who even goes shopping now? You know… Even the charity shops are doing home deliveries, aren’t they? “No.” They fuck…! They fucking are! If I say… “Who even goes shopping? “Even the charity shops are doing home…” “They’re not.” “They are! So…” They are! So, if you ever fancy getting 100 copies of the last Rufus Hound Live stand-up DVD… ..for a pound, 1p each, yeah, you don’t even have to leave the house. Why? Because the charity shops are doing home deliveries. “They’re not, mate, it’s not cost effective!” They are! They’ve got kids on bikes… They’ve got drones doing it. If you…
The charity shops are doing home deliveries! “They’re not!” They are. So, if you ever fancy getting 100 copies of the same Alan Carr Live DVD for a pound… “1p each?!” Yeah! GASPING: You don’t even have to leave the house… “Why?” The charity shops are doing home…
You know what? Forget it. Forget the fuck… I’m going to do this routine. I’m on high blood pressure medication. It’s not… It’s not safe for me to perform this routine with the level of commitment the upper circle of Southend appear to require! I don’t want to die doing this, here. I wouldn’t mind dying on stage if it was like Tommy Cooper. Do you remember that, older people? Tommy Cooper, when he died on stage at the London Palladium. And I’m not trying to take the piss. It was an amazing thing and a brilliant way to go out for a comedian. 7,000 people in the room all laughing, and he died, and they thought it was a joke. It was an amazing way to go out for a comedian. But I wouldn’t want to die here in this gig. With him, clapping sycophant, on Twitter afterwards, going, “Uh, I’ve just seen Stewart Lee’s last gig.” “What was it like?” “It was a struggle for him in many ways. “It was a shame. “It was a real… A lot of people weren’t into it. “But, yeah, it wasn’t… “It…it was not his best. “He looked ill, actually. He looked ill. “He looked like he was struggling, you know?” We’ll drop the charity shop routine, we’ll move onto the next bit. There is no charity shop routine. There is no charity shop routine, mate. Every night, I just pretend… “It’s the best bit as well, what a shame! What a shame…”
Each night is exactly the same. All the things happen, they happen the same every night, and somehow the sort of cross-section of people that comes to see me, whether I’m in Aberdeen or Southend, they seem to be the same. They are self-replicating. No place is any different to the other, and the show goes beat-for-beat the same every night, and I don’t know how long I can carry on doing that. Well, I mean, especially with the state of you, you’re obviously in the worst physical condition of your life. Performing at this level with this degree of enthusiasm… It’s going to kill you, isn’t it? It’s going to kill me. It’s going to kill me. And this will not be one of those memorable Tommy Cooper… No. ..demises, in front of an audience of loving, affectionate… Yeah. ..happy, contented laughing people. Yeah. This will be in front of your audience.
Well, the worst thing that could possibly happen is on the verge of dying on stage and getting a Tommy-Cooper-like send-off, I’ll somehow manage to shuffle off and expire in the wings, which will have no comic or artistic value whatsoever.
All I’m saying is this, right? All those ’90s and noughties TV panel show, Live At The Apollo, Netflix comedians, right? You can get all their live DVDs, second-hand, on the internet, on Amazon, on eBay, for 1p each. All of them, 1p! But the cheapest that you can get…
Well, we’ll see how funny it is, won’t we, madam? When we hear… When we hear how much it is. The cheapest that you can get my 2004 live DVD for, second-hand on the internet, how much do you think it is, madam? This is a quick little exchange, really, that… ..speeds the evening along. £5? Have you seen this before? Have you tried to fuck this up on purpose? For God’s sake, tonight of all the… It’s not £5, no. You panicked, didn’t you? I could see… £5… It’s £3.67. Now… Right, what’s happened the other… ..208 nights of this tour – it’s £3.67, my DVD. I go to the person there, I say, “How much do you think it is?” They go, “50p,” or “£1,” or “10p,” or something, which is less than £3.67. And then I say, “£3.67.” And there’s a kind of mock heroic triumph in the room, people going, “Yes! Aah! “More than they said, yeah!” But what’s happened tonight, you weren’t to know, were you? It’s very kind of you to think that it would be five… What’s your name, madam? What is it? No, don’t shake your head, you have a name! What is it? Annette. Annette, yeah. Annette, very kindly, has… ..massively overestimated the… She’s gone £5, I’ve gone £3.67. And where there’s normally joy, the people of Southend are already struggling, look at them. They’ve gone… They’ve gone, “Ooh, that’s awkward, isn’t it? “Because it’s less. It’s much less than he said.” So, that’s ruined. But… That’s normally another bit where there’s a bit of a lift, but all those bits tonight are being sabotaged, so that’s good. But, um… So, er… This is… I’ll be really amazed if this makes the edit, but if it does, then that’s the camera to get it on there. So… It’s £3.67, right? Which is still… Yes, that’s right, cry and blow your nose. It’s still… It’s still 367 times more than anybody else’s second-hand live DVD, right? But that would have been… You could have cheered a little bit there, couldn’t you? And recovered from the damage that your representative has done to the evening. But instead, Brexit-vague Southend have sat there and thought, “Let’s make this bloke suffer and then…” It’s 367 times more than anybody else’s, right? Which is… You know what?
Don’t patronise me, it’s too late.
No, forget it! The moment…
WHISTLING AND APPLAUSE
Right, you can clap! You can clap and cheer as sarcastically as you like, Southend! But it doesn’t change the fact that I am the £3.67 king of the obsolete physical media market, right? But there’s a reason for that, and it’s this, OK? I always sell DVDs and books after the gig, I probably won’t bother tonight, to be honest, but I normally do. And the cheapest that I can get the 2004 live DVD at source, new, from the warehouse in Colchester is £3.50, OK? So, I have to put it on for ten quid, right? Because I have to give 10% to 25% commission to the venue, that’s £2.50 off the ten, 15% to the promoters, that’s another £1.50 off the ten, that’s four gone. Another 15% to the agent, that’s £1.50, that’s £5.50 gone off the ten. £3.50 for the DVD in the first place. That’s £9 gone off the ten. This doesn’t normally get laughs, but I’m happy to take whatever comes from the Southend Accountants’ Theatre Trip up there at the back! “This is the bit I told you about. “It’s hilarious! “Because presumably, he’s self-employed, schedule D, “but he doesn’t seem to have realised that he could put the “initial DVD purchase through as a tax-deductible business…” I do, right? Why is this going better than proper jokes? Just… Right, I do know that! But I put the… I put it through at the end of each quarter, not with the balance of each… It doesn’t make any difference, as long as you… Who are you?! Who’s come to this?! “Politics, words, we’re not interested in that. “What we like is numbers being added up!” So, you’ve got a pound… When I did this tonight, I thought, “I hope it’s a really unique night “that we’re filming,” and it fucking is! Right? So, you’ve got £1 left, right? That’s taxed, isn’t it? Business rates… 22%, so you’ve got 78p left from the ten. Then there’s other costs – transport, storage. So, basically, a £3.50 DVD sold for ten quid, I’m normally looking at about 60p, 70p profit, right? So, what I do, OK? I can never sleep after gigs, right, because of the crazed adrenaline rush that is surge… Come on, look at what you’ve seen me dealing with! I’ve got a woman here, right, normally people go for 10p, that works. She said £5, it’s the highest anyone’s ever said in 18 months. But it didn’t floor me, did it? No. I’ve rolled with it. I came, I went, “No.” It’s not… I did! You couldn’t do this. If you were to do this, you’d cry. You couldn’t do this. And that’s why I’m up here like a god, right? And you’re down there in the dark, like pigs in an Essex ditch. So, I’m awake, so what I do, I can’t sleep, I go on the internet, I go on Amazon, I go on eBay, drunk, right? And first of all, I buy loads of 1970s Turkish funk albums, right? Yeah – Mogollar, Selda, Erkin Koray – the usual names. “Bunalim, Stew?” No, too metal. So… What do you want? So… “I love the adding up and the Turkish funk stuff. “Other than that…”
It’s getting applause, the Turkish funk stuff. Yeah, I’m bang on the meme. So… Does that exist, that phrase? Have I invented it, what’s going on? So… When… When I’ve… When I’ve bought all the Turkish funk, right, I start looking around for that 2004 live DVD, and if I see it anywhere second-hand for less than £3.50 – £3.40, £3.35 – I buy it, slip it in with the new ones… I’m looking at an extra 10 or 15 pence profit. I tell you what, tonight, for that bit, it’s good to be out of London and be in Essex, because in London, the sort of people that live there now, when I do that, they go, “Huh, 15 pence?” But all you lot, ex… Expatriate Cockney market trading, aren’t you? “15p? That’s a good return on that! “We’ve left London now.” I know why.
Sometimes you get lucky, there’s a company on the internet called Music Magpie. They had 20 copies of it for £3.40 each, right? And I bought them all, OK? And the bloke at Music Magpie – Rick, he’s called – he sent me a sarcastic note with the order, he put, “How sad”, he put, “How sad, buying your own DVDs second-hand on the internet.” But it isn’t sad, is it? Because I made two quid on that, clear profit. So my DVDs are £3.67, that is 367 times, Annette, more than any other stand-up’s second-hand DVD live. But, to be fair, there’s a reason for that. I’m like a corrupt banker, aren’t I? I’ve kind of manipulated the market to drive up the perception of my commodity in the marketplace, you know? To be fair to Jimmy Carr, for example – whose DVDs are all 1p second-hand on the internet – He’s not awake, is he, at two o’clock in the morning buying his own DVDs second-hand on Amazon to resell off a trestle table in Southend-on-Sea. He’s not doing that. Imagine if he was? Imagine if Jimmy Carr was on Amazon buying something that he never paid the tax on what he got paid for doing it in the first place, from a company that don’t pay any of their tax either. Is it possible to imagine a more tax-avoiding transaction than Jimmy Carr buying a Jimmy Carr DVD on Amazon? Only if he found it using Google on a Vodafone phone whilst paying Gary Barlow to spit cold Starbucks coffee into his splayed anus… ..while the cast of Mrs Brown’s Boys stand around singing I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. There’s not a single taxable juncture in the entire transaction!
Now, if you’ve been looking carefully, you’ll notice the whole of this set tonight is actually made entirely out of other stand-up comedian’s second-hand live DVDs. I wasn’t trying to make fun of anyone, what I wanted to do was get all the DVDs and pile them up and then hang hessian sacking over them so they looked like the rocks and cliffs in that painting. But I didn’t do that idea in the end, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to make fun of the other comedians by making this set out of their DVDs. I’m not. It’s just that other comedians’ live DVDs are currently the cheapest building material available.
Of course, what I hadn’t factored in is that it’s actually quite depressing to look at this every night for a year. You know, it is, because I am a comedian, right? And, you know, I got all of these DVDs for 1p online, or 50p in that CEX exchange place. And of course, what is sad is, there are actually lots of really good ones here. And it’s very depressing… ..to think of them just becoming a sort of pile of worthless landfill. No, but it is sad, because…because… Well, this was a big deal, wasn’t it? The Christmas comedy DVD market and that’s…that’s over. And everything’s in collapse, you know? The Government are trying to close down the BBC. I don’t know how that’ll affect comedy. Actually, after the second series I did for the BBC, I got offered more money by Sky to go and do two series for them. But I didn’t. I didn’t go to Sky and I stayed at the BBC for less money. And I’ve not talked about this on stage before. All right, I’ll tell you why. It’s because I think if you make an ethical choice about something, it’s a private matter and you shouldn’t go around crowing… ..crowing it from the rooftops to try and engineer the perception of yourself as some kind of national cake-baking treasure. Know what I mean? But I started talking about it on stage last year. And in the summer, Sky’s lawyers sent me a very threatening cease-and-desist letter saying I wasn’t to say Sky had offered me more money than the BBC, because they hadn’t. And I went through the paperwork, and I went, “There’s the offer, there’s the minutes of the meeting.” So they… They backed off. But that gives you an indication of the extent to which I’m a pariah in the comedy business, that a broadcaster would take legal action to deny ever having wanted to work with me. But there’s all sorts of reasons not to appear on Rupert Murdoch’s evil Sky and one of them, of course, is that I know it’s not really me they want. They don’t want me. They want you to watch Sky because I’m on it. They want you, the ABC1, going-to-the-theatre, reading sort of people, to start watching Sky so they can advertise the sorts of things that you buy. Like cappuccinos and spiralisers and courgettes. If you watch Sky at the moment, all the advertising is for knives, masking tape and bin bags. You know, I wish I had gone to Sky, for the money, right, but I can’t. Because if you are a sort of broadly liberal comedian and you appear on Rupert Murdoch’s evil Sky, my concern is you’re going to lose your core audience, which tonight is about seven people down there in Southend. Alan Partridge, the fictional character, he can appear on Rupert Murdoch’s evil Sky because that is exactly the kind of channel Alan Partridge would appear on if he was real, isn’t it? You know, if you were watching Sky News and Eamonn Holmes came on and then Kay Burley and then Alan Partridge you’d go, “Ooh, Sky have raised the quality of their journalism.” And I wish I could appear on Sky for the money, I wish I could, right, but I can’t. Because the character of Stewart Lee that I’ve created… ..would have smug, liberal, moral objections to appearing on Sky. And I’m coming to hate the character of Stewart Lee. I’m coming to despise the character of Stewart Lee in the same way as Rod Hull came to hate Emu. I even hate this, what I’m saying now. Pretentious, meta-textual, self-aware shit. “What’s wrong with proper jokes?” That’s what I say to me. You know, Russell Howard‘s not involved in an ongoing interrogation of the divided self, is he? No, he’s going… “We’ve all done it. “You’ve run out of toilet roll, “you use a sock.” His own clothing. For excrement! What is that? Observational comedy from a Victorian mental hospital? “We’ve all done it. You wake up, don’t you, about six in the morning? ” ‘Get up!’ Then about 11 o’clock, the gentry come round, don’t they, “in their top hats, smashing you in the face with canes, “then in the afternoon, you’re chained to a bed and spat at. “You try and escape. We’ve all done it.” I’d go and see that. All the young, 20-something comedians, in their 20s. They all complain to me about me doing a joke about Russell Howard, all the 20-somethings. They go,
DRONING VOICE: “Aw, mate… “Ma-a-a-ate! “Aww-w! “Ma-a-a-a-a-ate! “Aw, mate! “Aaw! “Aw, mate! “Aaw! “A-A-Aw, ma-a-a-a-ate. “Mate, no! “Aw… “Aw, mate, no! No! “No, mate! Aw! “Mate, no! “Mate, what have you…? “Aw, mate. “What you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “Aw, mate. “Mate? “Hey, mate. Mate. Ma-a-a-ate. “Mate, why you having a go at Russell, mate?” “Mate, what…? Wha-a-a-a-a…? “Mate, what you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “Mate, what you having a go at Russell Howard for? Aaahhh! “A-A-A-Ah! “Mate, what you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “Mate, what you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “Mate. Mate. “Mate, mate. “Mate, what…? “Whuuuhhhh… “Uhhh! “What you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “Mate? “Mate? What you having…? Whhuuuhhh… “What you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “Mate, what you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate? “What you having a go at whaa…whuuh…maaaa? “What you having a go at Russell Howard for, mate?” They all stick up for him. It’s not even fair. I did one joke about Russell Howard, about ten years ago, and that’s all. One joke. Admittedly, it was 58 minutes long. It wasn’t even about him. It was about a press release about him, which was stupid, right? I liked him, to be honest. I hate him now, though. It’s not even his fault, it’s my fault entirely, right? And why I hate Russell Howard is this, OK? Now, this is… Oh, right. OK, this is the last sort of seven, eight-minute bit of the first half. This… This ends on a sentence that normally gets such a big laugh that I don’t even have to wrap up the show. I just walk off while people are still going, “Ha-ha-ha!” That won’t happen tonight, and I think we know why. It’s because, God bless them, loads of people have come along tonight. They’ve thought, “Oh, something’s come to Southend, “let’s go and see it.” And this joke relies on people having seen me before or knowing something about me. I’d like to drop this bit, to be honest, but I can’t. But it’s, um… It looks very relaxed, but actually it’s a very tightly structured show and I can’t drop this bit cos there’s stuff in it that sets up things in the second half, so I have to do it. So we’ll just get through it and then we’ll have a…
Right, OK. The reason I hate Russell Howard is this, OK? It’s because my family, right, they’re very nice, OK? But they don’t… I love them, but they don’t read the sort of papers where I get good reviews. They don’t know the sort of people that would like me. They’re like a lot of the people that have come tonight. And, um… If they ever see a bit of film of me on YouTube or something like that, they think it’s so bad, right, what I do, that they can’t believe I can actually make a living out of this, and in fact, they don’t believe it. So when they talk to me about stand-up, they talk to me about it in a sort of sympathetic tone of voice. As if they think I’m a delusional mad man, who imagines that he’s a stand-up comedian, and if I was to find out that I wasn’t, I would have a mental breakdown. So they sort of ring me up and they go, “Hello. “And how is your stand-up comedy going?” “Cos that’s your job, isn’t it? “And you do that, don’t you, for your work, in your actual life?” I’m going, “Yeah, it’s fine, I’m just coming to the end “of an 18-month tour, actually.” “I’m sure you are. “Been going all round, haven’t you, “and people are all laughing and no-one’s walking out?”
The worst one is my brother-in-law, right? He’s a really nice bloke, he’s 57 and I really like him. I’m very lucky to have him, but we’re different sort of people. He’s the kind of bloke who’ll ring me up and he’ll go, “Yeah, I saw you on TV last night having a go at Farage. “Quite badly misjudged, I thought.” But he’s really great, and, erm… No, he is! I really… No, I do, I really like him. But he came to see me once about three years ago in London and it was a proper, normal… Right, this is a five-star show, right? I’m just letting you know. This has had across-the-board, five-star reviews, right? So I’m just letting you know that if there’s a problem in this room tonight, it’s not on this side of the stage, that’s all I’m saying, right? OK? A five-star show, all right? It doesn’t feel like it tonight, does it? It feels like a four with occasional lurches down towards a three, but it is a five. Anyway, my brother-in-law came to see me in London, a proper, normal, five-star night, not like tonight, full of wilful obstruction, indifference and people wandering out. It was a normal, five-star… But he just didn’t like it, you know. And he, afterwards, he looked so ashamed and embarrassed he couldn’t meet my eye. I thought he was going to be sick in the foyer. But to be fair to him, my brother-in-law, he has no frame of reference whatsoever for this, right? Cos he’s only ever seen one other thing live in his whole life and that was, in 1986, at Lancaster Polytechnic, he saw Deacon Blue. And I can see him, with his mate in the room, he’s going, “What is this? It’s nothing like Deacon Blue, what is it?” Anyway, he rings me up, “Hello, how’s your comedy? That’s your work, isn’t it?” I’m going, “Yeah, it’s fine.” I said to him, “You sound in a good mood.” He said, “I am in a good mood.” I said, “Why?” And he said, “Well,” he said, “we’ve been very lucky,” he said. “We’ve managed to secure two tickets, 18 months in advance, “to the sold-out Royal Albert Hall run of our favourite “TV stand-up comedian of all time, Russell Howard.” And I went, “Oh.” And he said, “You sound surprised.” And I went, “Well, I’ve just never “met an adult, you know, that was going to see Russell…” It’s for kids, isn’t it? For kids. And, erm… But… And he said to me, “Don’t you think he’s any good?” I went, “Yeah, he’s great, you know.” And then he said to me, in a sarcastic voice, my own brother-in-law, he said to me, “Yes,” he said, “not like you, then,” he said, “the most critically acclaimed stand-up in Britain.” Well, that’s where the big laugh is, normally. Nothing, was there?
A SINGLE CLAP
Yeah, well, bit late for that.
OK, well… Right, why that normally gets a laugh, right…? I see… That is normally such a big laugh I just… People are going, “Ah-ha!” and I just walk off. I go… OK. Right, it doesn’t matter. It’s nice, actually, that so many people have come that didn’t really know me and have… OK, what it is, why that’s… OK, you don’t know, right, but why it’s funny, right, he said to me, “Of course, YOU’RE the most critically acclaimed “stand-up in Britain,” like I’m not, but I AM, right? So that’s why… And they know that. That’s why they’re laughing while the rest of you’re going, “Well…” No, I am, I am. I’m not… No, that’s why it normally… Don’t fucking shake your head at me, right? This… It’s not up for debate, right? I’m the most critically acclaimed stand-up in Britain this century, so it’s funny that your own family member wouldn’t… Would not… I’m not saying I’m the best, right? I’m the most critically acclaimed, I’m not saying I’m the best. There’s loads of stand-ups better than me. I mean, there’s… There’s Daniel Kitson… Ah, there’s loads. No, I am, I know. So people going… I can see them, going, “He can’t be, can he? What? “There’s people walking out.” You’ve made this seem arrogant, but it’s actually a very humble joke cos it’s about how… Fuck! Right, I have got…I have got… I’ve got two…? I’ve got three British Comedy Awards, I think. I might have two. I can’t remember, I’ve got so many. I’ve got… I’ve got a Bafta. I’ve got… ..an Olivier Award. None of these people have got that, have they, an Olivier Award? I’ve got six Chortle Awards, which is the industry… So… It is! I’ve got six consecutive ones for Best Touring Show. What d’you want me to do? I can’t… You know, this… This isn’t an end to a half, is it? A man pleading the case for his own… ..genius while people file out? Christ’s sake. Let’s sort this out, right?
Right, OK, I appreciate so many people coming, taking a punt on this, not knowing what it is. I know it’s hard to get baby-sitters, all that sort of thing. Let’s sort this out. Let’s kick the second half up to five, right? We can fix this. What I’m going to do… Don’t go, stop hanging around the doorway. Give me two minutes, right? I’m going to fix this. What I’m going to do, just quickly, right, I’m going to go over some of the jokes that are coming up in the second half… No, because then they can ask people about them and… I can’t afford to lose any more of you. Right, in the second half, right, there’s going to be… This’ll take a minute, right? There’s going to be two more jokes about Deacon Blue, the ’80s Scottish… Right, they’re not hilarious jokes, right, but what they are, they’re what we call “call-backs” and they tie back to the earlier mention of Deacon Blue and they give the show the illusion of structure, right? Which is what raises us above the apes, I think. Or “visiting American stand-ups”, as I call them. Oh, come on, you’ve seen them, haven’t you? You’re at the O2, seeing the American stand-up. It’s 95 quid for their 42-minute club set and you’re sitting there watching the American stand-up and you’re going… “We don’t have those cakes here, mate. “We don’t have those cakes.” OK, all I’m saying, right, is, I don’t go to New York and do two hours on Mr Kipling, do I? You know, I’m not in Madison Square Garden going, “And there’s like a shortbread bit… “Then there’s jam on there… “Then there’s, like, a Bakewell… “Is this on?” So to get everyone in the mood, I thought I’d play the first Deacon Blue album, Raintown, at half-time, right? And I found it, second-hand, on the internet, 69p. That’s not very good, is it, Annette? 69p, no! I could teach Deacon Blue a thing or two about online reputation management. What I don’t understand is, there’s six of them, they should be on the internet in shifts, driving that price up. D’you know, if there were six of me, my DVD would be about £5?
That’s right. You are right to clap. So what you do there, you get a problem, it’s not a problem, you store it away, bring it back later on. I know you’re laughing, the people up there, they’re going, “No-one could be that good. She is a plant, that woman. “He takes her round the whole country and she shouts out, ‘£5.’ ” You’re not a plant, are you, Annette? No. Only four more shows left, anyway. You don’t know what’s going on now, do you? So I ordered it off Music Magpie, Deacon Blue’s first album, and the bloke, Rick, at Music Magpie, he sent me an e-mail. He said, “We’re sorry to inform you that Raintown by Deacon Blue, “order 2032917358, has failed its final quality inspection.” So I said, “Well, don’t worry if the case is damaged. “I just need to play the music at half-time.” And he said, “No, not its physical quality inspection. “Deacon Blue’s mix of soulful singer-songwriter sensibilities “and plastic mid-’80s production values has not aged well. “But we notice from our files that all your fans who buy your live DVDs “from us then go on to buy 1970s Turkish funk albums. “So as a goodwill gesture, here’s some to play in your interval.” That’s the interval now.
TURKISH FUNK MUSIC PLAYS
After what is, by your own admission, a very disappointing end to the first half on every single night of the tour, which must be especially dispiriting. Yeah. But what do you actually do during an intermission? Do you cry, do you comfort eat, or…? Well, I go offstage and I sit in the dressing room and then I go online and I look to see if anyone’s said anything about it on Twitter. That’s what I do every night. And hopefully, there’s bad things on Twitter. But then I go out in a more depressed and angry mood, which helps with the persona for the second half. So I basically contrive a character by looking at things that will confirm it. I see that you’re still clinging to the notion that the comedian Stewart Lee is somehow an entity that is separate from yourself. How would you respond to people, often close friends and associates, who say that you are pretty much like that all the time? Well, it didn’t use to be the case and I think now what’s happened is, I toured this for 18 months and I filmed this special at the end of it, and I spent so long pretending to be the comedian Stewart Lee that I think whoever Stewart Lee was is gone now. And I am the comedian Stewart Lee and I’m aware of my own obsolescence and this other Stewart Lee, who had his own life and interests, that’s gone, and I’m hoping I can find him again. If the comedian Stewart Lee is a character that you invented, then wouldn’t you have invented a better one? Right, in the first half I said, didn’t I, I was trying to do two hours on the idea of the individual in a digitised, free-market economy. I said I was going to base it around this painting, Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 German romantic masterpiece Wanderer Above A Sea Of Fog. Then I said I couldn’t do that because I had to talk about Brexit. Then I did talk about Brexit for about 25 minutes. Then I got back on to talking about digital media, physical media. So that was all right, that was the first half, that was done. Then, about 16 months ago, I started writing the second half and that was coming together all right, and then America voted for Trump and there seems… OK, there seems to be an expectation everywhere that I should have written something about Americans voting for Trump. And I haven’t written anything about Trump because I’m trying to write a show that I can keep on the road for 18 months. And as I didn’t know how America voting for Trump was going to pan out, I didn’t write anything about it in case I couldn’t keep it in the show for the full length of the tour and monetise the work I’ve done. So I haven’t written anything about America voting for Trump because I don’t see the point of committing to a course of action for which there is no logical or financial justification. Well, typically, it’s going better down here, isn’t it? Down here, the elite of Southend. They’re going, “How amusing, Lee… “How amusing, Lee has used exactly the same syntax “at the start of both the first and second halves “with only two nouns changed in order to drive home “the notion that both the Trump and Brexit victories “are driven by the same populist rhetoric. How clever.” People up there are going, “How embarrassing, he’s done the same bit twice. “He must be drunk. “He’s an alcoholic, I saw it on Twitter.” So… You know, because I’ve got a Trump bit, I have to check at half time every night that he’s not been assassinated or fallen into a barrel of porn actresses or something. But it does mean that I see the same crass, anti-American generalisations online every night on social media, and it annoys me, to be honest. Because I don’t know if you can make massive generalisations about Americans who voted for Trump. Because Americans voted for Trump for all sorts of different reasons. And it wasn’t just racists that voted for Donald Trump… Cunts did as well, didn’t they?
Yeah. Stupid, fat American cunts. The worst kind of cunts, aren’t they? Much worse than our British cunts, aren’t they? Salt of the Earth British cunts. # British cunts! # British cunts! # British Brexit-voting cunts from Southend! # But… That’s you, innit? But I don’t know… But I don’t know if you can make massive generalisations about Americans that voted for Trump, seriously. I mean, not all Americans that voted for Trump wanted to see America immediately descend into being an unaccountable, single-party state exploiting people’s worst prejudices to maintain power indefinitely. Some Americans just wanted to be allowed to wear their Ku Klux Klan outfits to church, didn’t they? Perked up, haven’t you, at half time? Had a little chat, have you, with the people that brought you? “Do you think he’s funny, John?” “Yes.” “Oh, I do as well, then.” You make me sick.
It’s very difficult, though, nowadays, to write a joke that everyone either understands or finds funny, you know, or relates to. And it’s partly because we live in such fragmented times in terms of how we consume news information. There’s no dominant, trusted news narrative. No news source. Everyone’s going down their own little digital wormholes. And you’ll be on some website and it says, “Do you agree with this? “Then click on this because it’s the same as what you already think.” And no-one… No-one’s got any overview, have they? And that’s partly how a Trump and a Brexit can happen.
It didn’t used to be like that, did it, Southend? We used to be part of the collective consciousness, didn’t we? In 1978, for example, 28 million British people watched the same Christmas Morecambe and Wise as it was broadcast in real time. Half the population. And this is held up as a sort of apogee of our collective experience. But it doesn’t really hold water, because there was no competition then, was there? There was no DVDs. There was no internet. And there was only two other TV channels. And on one of them was a documentary about Burnham-on-Crouch. And on the other was a drawing of a clown sitting near a blackboard. And that got 27 million viewers. “Did it?” No. But young people today are very proud of the fact that they don’t interact with conventional terrestrial media at all, aren’t they? They go, “Mate, I don’t even know what it is, mate. “Terrestrial media? I just watch the internet Netflix “cable download computer television. “You know, I haven’t even got the thing that you… “I haven’t even got any eyes. “Mate. “I haven’t even got any, you know, senses “to perceive any physical stimuli. “I just have memes Bluetoothed into my cortex.
“Have you not got the internet Netflix cable Sky computer “download television, Stew? Have you not got that, mate? It’s amazing. “Some amazing things on the internet Netflix cable Sky. “I mean there’s… “There are, there’s some really good stuff. “I mean, there’s Game Of Thrones, for example. “Which is…
“Aw, have you not seen Game Of Thrones, mate? “Haaa…you not seen Game…? Uhhhhlll…. “Have you not seen Game Of Thrones, mate? “It’s not just about a gnome, Stew. “It’s a dwarf anyway, you’re racist against gnomes. “This is a completely different thing.” “Have you not seen Game Of Thrones? It’s not for kids, Stew. “No. I mean, yeah, there’s magic in it, but it’s not like, “you know, Harry Potter or The Faraway Tree or something like… “You know, what is magic anyway? That’s what I say to you. “I mean magic could be, it’s, like, kind of “energy that we don’t understand yet, you know?” It could be. I mean, think about it. I mean, once upon a time, you know, people would have run away from Doritos, wouldn’t they? But people eat them now. And they dip. I don’t. But, you know, some people, I’ve seen people eating… “Have you not seen Game Of Thrones? “I don’t know when it’s set Stew, no. “You know, it could be in the past, yeah. “Could be in the future, after Brexit. “There’s a big wall, cutting off the north of the country. “Everyone’s in rags, no-one’s got any Toblerone. “So it could be…
“Have you really not seen Game Of Thrones, mate? “I mean, it’s not just about a dragon flying around with a hat on. “It’s really… It’s actually, Stew, “Game Of Thrones is a really amazing programme because, actually, “it’s very clever, Game Of Thrones. “Because what it’s actually about, it’s about history and, you know, “philosophy and politics and things like that.” Is it? Game Of Thrones? Peter Stringfellow’s Lord Of The Rings? APPLAUSE Bilbo Baggins at the Spearmint Rhino? I’m not going to watch Game Of Thrones. I can get the same experience from sitting around with a Terry Pratchett novel in one hand and a copy of Hustler’s Barely Legal in the other. “It’s not like that, mate, if you actually watch Game…” I haven’t watched Game Of Thrones! If I want to understand the ongoing weft of history, while simultaneously being mildly sexually aroused, I’ll forcibly dress David Starkey in Agent Provocateur underwear… ..and pay him to give a lap dance to Simon Schama. “It’s not like that, mate, if you actually watch Game Of…” No, I haven’t watched Game Of Thrones. And I shall never watch Game Of Thrones. I shall take no wife… ..hold no lands… ..father no children. I shall wear no crown… ..and win no glory. And I shall not watch Game Of Thrones. Do you like that, do you, Game Of Thrones fans? Do you know what? I don’t even fucking know what that is. I copied that off the back of a cup in HMV. Right, OK? No, I did. And everything I need to know to do an hour of stand-up on Game Of Thrones, I can get off a cup. So, grow up, you stupid Warhammer twat. You’re 45 years old! “It’s not like that, have you actually watched…” No, I haven’t watched Game Of Thrones! If I want to understand the ongoing collapse of ancient dynasties, while simultaneously being barely semi-tumescent… ..as usual… ..I’ll read Tolstoy’s War And Peace while sitting over the wheel arch of a diesel-powered double-decker bus. First laughs from the friends up there. Some of the older supporters of the theatre going, yeah, “Remember the old days? You could get on, couldn’t you? “You get on the bus in Billericay, “and by the time…”
AS A WORKING-MAN’S CLUB COMEDIAN: Hey, I’ve got a joke for you now, Southend. It’s a Game Of Thrones joke. Hey, I tell you what, you may laugh, madam – if you were my daughter, I’d still be bathing you. So… Come on. It was the 1970s, it was a different time. It was a time of innocence and fun and laughter. So, I’ve got a joke for you, it’s a Game Of Thrones joke. Eh! So… You may laugh, sir – if you were my son, I’d still be bathing you. Different times, weren’t they, the ’70s? All the children were clean, weren’t they, in the ’70s? Weren’t they? Get in the bath, get out of the bath, dry yourself off, get back in the bath now! Get in the bath! So…
NORMAL VOICE: There’s people up there going, “Oh, now it’s picked up. “A proper comedian’s come on.”
AS A WORKING-MAN’S CLUB COMEDIAN: So, I’ve got a joke for you now. You may laugh, sir – if you were dead, I’d still be bathing you. Different times, weren’t it, the ’70s? You could bathe the dead, couldn’t you? “Is he dead?” “Yes, but he’s clean.” “Oh.” “Nice and clean.” So… I’ve got a joke for you now, it’s a Game Of Thrones joke. Eh! I tell you what, right, there’s so many naked young women in that Game Of Thrones programme that they have… I’m just checking back there for the old PC thought police. Gary Lineker‘s liberal Stasi. No offence, the metropolitan liberal elite of Southend, but how fucked are you when the main champion of your liberal values is Gary Lineker? “My name is Gary Lineker. “I like to wake up in the morning “and send out a succession of tweets “in support of broadly progressive causes.” “Then, in the afternoon, “I like to relax with a great big bag of crisps.” Are you there, Gary? He’s not there tonight. Are you there? Some nights, he’s there and we have a… ..we have a little chat, don’t… Hello? But, no, Gary, I don’t think… Well, given how the first half ended, I don’t think tonight is the sort of night where the audience will go with a long, improvised dialogue with an invisible, offstage Gary Lineker. So… I know, Gary, it worked very well in Leicester, but that’s your hometown. And what began as a regionally specific ad lib has gradually depreciated in value as we’ve gone further south. I know. So, he’s not coming on tonight. He’s not there, anyway. He won’t come this far south, Gary Lineker. He won’t cross water. In case his crisps get damp.
Anyway, I need to get on with the joke now, because the longer I talk in this voice, the more I realise I’ve not really given it enough thought to who this is supposed to be. Just started off as a throwaway thing. Anyway, so, I’ve got a joke for you now, it’s a Game Of Thrones joke. Eh, I tell you what, right, there’s so many naked young women in that Game Of Thrones programme that they have now, it’s hardly surprising what stunted Tyrion Lannister’s growth. It were wanking, ladies and gentlemen. He’s wanked hisself into being a dwarf. See? He was 6ft 6in in the pilot episode. “Hang on a minute, mate, wasn’t that a sizeist joke? “About the dwarf community?”
NORMAL VOICE: Yes, it was, but I ridiculed the dwarf community in order to satirize the ongoing exploitation of women in mainstream media, so it cancels it out. It’s the kind of split-second, collateral-damage decision Frankie Boyle has to make every time he opens his mouth. “Oh, hang on a minute, mate, “who’s the sole arbiter of taste in stand-up comedy? “Who’s the self-appointed moral judge of right and wrong “in stand-up comedy?” It’s me, I am! It’s been me for about 17 years now, and there’s nothing the passive-aggressive indifference of the people of Southend-on-Sea can do about that. Not now. But, hey, the world’s gone mad, hasn’t it? Do you know what?
I blame… I blame young people. By which I mean people under 40, and I hope there is none in. “I’m under 40. “I’m disillusioned. “I like Russell Brand, I didn’t vote. “Yeah!” “Oh, no, I’ve got no future now.” “Never mind, I’ve got this phone.” People under 40, what a shower of shit are you? Aren’t you?! This is you… “I’m under 40. “I like Poke Man Go.” “I’m under 40, and in the morning, I don’t eat bread for breakfast, “like an adult, I suck drinking yoghurt out of a pouch.” HE SLURPS “I’m under 40, this is my food.” “I’m under 40, this is me on the bus to work in the morning.” People under 40, you like stupid fads, don’t you? A Japanese cat’s face drawn on a satchel, that’s what you like, isn’t it? “I’ve got to get up early and get down the market.” “Why?” “The Japanese-cat-satchel-face man’s coming.” “You’ve got loads of satchels of a Japanese cat’s face on, mate.” “I know, but there might be… Waaahhh!”
Bondage sex and S&M and the fetish thing, that’s the new thing, isn’t it, the under-40s? Which they think they’ve invented. Because they read about it in 50 Shades Of Grey, or they saw it in a FKA twigs video. I know who he is, actually, mate, so you can fuck off. This is exactly my problem, actually, with the under-40s. If you’re 50, like me, and you make some joke about popular culture, people under 40 go, “Ah-ha-ha, Grandad, you don’t know who FKA twigs is.” Well, I do know who he is, FKA twigs. They don’t, do they, the Southend theatre people? FKA twigs, right… He’s not a twig, like you think. “Is he a twig, is he from the woods?” FKA twigs, he’s a… He’s a rap singer, he’s one of these… He is, he’s one of these rappers. Well, he is, he’s done loads of tapes, I’ve got his tapes, and he’s… He’s got a video, FKA twigs, where all sort of Japanese bondage ropes go round him, and he flies up in the air and he has to try and… Right, has anyone seen this? Because I’m looking for stuff to drop, to be honest. No. I’ve seen it, I saw it on, er… Oh… Not Top Of The Pops, what is it they have now? The internet, it was on that. It’s like Top Of The Pops, isn’t it, the internet? Full of pop music and sexual predators. Yeah, see? See? I can write jokes, I could be on Mock The Week, easily. This is Mock The Week, isn’t it? “The internet is a bit like…” Fuck off, for God’s sake, what waste of everyone’s… Pathetic, innit? “Oh, I’ve written a joke!” Imagine writing jokes? What a waste of time. “Oh, this thing is like this, only this is different.” For God’s sake, pathetic. People under f… “I’m 37, I like bondage sex. “I had a mask on and some jam went on me.” Did it?
Do you remember proper bondage sex, like we used to have? In the ’80s, in the ’70s – in the ’50s, friends of the theatre, remember? Proper, you know, degrading, you know… If you weren’t in hospital at the end of it, you’d done it wrong. And he had to do it again. Not like now. “I’m 34, I like bondage sex, a feather went on my bum.” Did it? Were you asphyxiated in a career-ending accident? No? Shut up then, drink your fucking pouch of yoghurt, get your fucking cat-face bag and fuck off! And that is my message to the under-40s.
But, joking apart… Yeah, I was joking. I took an exaggerated position for comic effect. I’ve been doing it all night. A little peep for you there, Southend, behind the wizard’s curtain. # Behind the wizard’s curtain # With Stewart Lee # He is going to show you all # The secrets of comedy # Well, what would you do if a woman said £5 # When you were hoping that she’d say 50p? # Would you squirrel it away at the back of your head # And bring it back in later on instead? # Yeah! Behind the wizard’s curtain. # Yeah, Behind The Wizard’s Curtain. It’s a thing I’m working on for Dave. Hey, get this, right? It was my idea and I wrote it, but apparently it’d be better if Greg Davies presented it. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Anyway, so… On the subject of your constant comparisons between your act and jazz, I don’t really recall Miles Davis or any of the other jazz legends actually ever having their trousers fall down, or anything like that. I mean, we are talking about something very, very different. Well, I understand what you mean, but there’s a similarity, inasmuch as what the great jazz musicians do is they work in the moment with things that take them by surprise. One night in Bristol, my trousers fell down, it took me by surprise, but I worked with it. I suppose the difference between me and the jazz musicians is that they did that once, they worked with it, and they consigned it to the bin of history. What they don’t do with their moments of improvisation is then falsify them for hundreds of times afterwards. Yes. In fact, in many ways, you could argue there could be nothing more different between the pure, improvisatory art of jazz and a man pretending to improvise the same thing, night after night, for the best part of a year-and-a-half. But the thing is, at some point, I did have the idea to do that in the first place. That was the jazz moment. So you’re more like a recording of jazz than jazz itself? Yeah, that’s been taken around and played to people as a reminder of the fact that at some point, the idea was original. So I was talking about the S&M and the fetish thing there, right. It’s an exaggerated example to choose, but let’s stay with it, cos it dovetails into something I wanted to talk about, which is this, right? I think any area of interest people have, any hobby, whether it’s woodwork, sailing, you know, er, collecting stamps – or something mad, like the fetish thing – whatever it is, it’s so much easier now to find out about these things and to meet like-minded people, because of the internet – much more so than it was, say, even 25 years ago – that I don’t know if any of our passions, if any of our hobbies, our interests, will ever have the same depth of meaning that they had to us a quarter of a century ago, because you’re not required to put yourself out, you’re not required to commit to anything, you know?
Let’s take the fetish thing, for a laugh, right? Now, if you’d wanted to get into that 25 years ago, you know, you probably couldn’t even have done it in Southend. You’d have had to go to Burnham-on-Crouch, right? You’d have to go to the very worst part of Burnham-on-Crouch, and it’d be in some underpass, and there’d be some horrible shop there with a bloke behind the counter, drinking amyl nitrate out of an egg cup. And he’d sell you some ticket to some fetish event in London in about two years’ time, and you’d go there, to The Clink or something. You’d go, “Hello, where’d you get that collar thing? “Who are you? How do you do this? When’s the next meeting?” And it would take you ages, wouldn’t it, to get into any kind of subculture. But when you finally did, it would mean something, because you’d committed to it, right? But it’s all changed now. One of you could go home tonight, from here, couldn’t you, and think, “Oh, I’d like to be in the fetish scene.” And you could go on Amazon, bop, bop, bop, next-day delivery, Taiwanese fist glove, that’s there tomorrow. Midday, your partner goes, “What’s this?” You go, “It’s a Taiwanese fist glove.” “I didn’t know you were into all that.” “I am.” “Since when?” “Last night, about half past ten, I just decided.”
But it wouldn’t mean anything, would it? It wouldn’t mean anything. You know, I used to collect records, right? I started about 1979 and I spent the next two decades wandering around with a little list in my pocket, looking for these things. And then I started touring, ’89, and I’d go to these different towns, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, I’d go in the record shops, “Have you got this?” “No, we’ll ring the dealer.” And he’d come in, and it would take you ten years, sometimes, to find the thing you were looking for. And when you finally did, it was amazing. Then, in 1997, I got online, in an afternoon, I found everything I’d been looking for for 20 years, right? And it didn’t mean anything. It did not mean anything, and it’s changed so much in our lifetime. If you talk to your grandparents or your great-grandparents about trying to do bondage sex and fetish stuff… ..and S&M… You know, in the war, when there was Hitler, Adolf Hitler. Or in the ’30s, when a lot of the things they needed were very scarce, very hard to come by, it was harder for them to get into all this stuff, but I think it meant more to them. Well, you snigger because you are of a generation where you cannot conceive, can you, they cannot conceive of not being able to instantly get what they want. And it is a tragedy, I think.
And I remember talking to my gran about this, and I remember her saying that, in the ’30s, you know, if she wanted a deluxe latex sort of… ..like a sex harness for bondage, to be hung up from a beam or something… You know, it wasn’t like now. They couldn’t just go into Ann Summers. You know, there was no Ann Summers. They lived in Kidderminster. People still live there now, still live there now. What they had to do in the ’30s, in rural Worcestershire, if they wanted a sex harness, is… Yeah, “ha-ha”. ..is… ..they would have to walk. They would. And they would walk and walk and walk and walk, miles and miles and miles, all round rural Worcestershire, all round Bromsgrove, Redditch, Alvechurch, Inkberrow, Rowney Green, erm, Bell End, Fishponds, Upper Piddle, Wyre Piddle, all these sorts of places… ..just looking on the floor. For old bits of string and twine and sturdy weeds and vines. And then they would knit all these together, and they would make their own sex harness, just out of old rubbish from off the floor. And do you know what a sex harness made out of just all stuff off the floor in Worcestershire in 1937… That would have meant more to them than probably any possession any of you have ever had, or any feeling that any of you have ever had, or any thought that any of you have ever had, because you live, don’t you, in a time that is of no value and consequently you are of no value. You are like an empty husk, billowing across a desolate landscape, bereft of all sense and meaning, and you know it.
And I remember talking… I remember talking to my grandad about this sort of thing. My grandad, and he said to me, he said it was different.” He said to me, in the ’30s, in rural Worcestershire, if he wanted a deluxe, latex, zip-up gimp mask for sex, a sex mask… It wasn’t like now, he couldn’t just go on Amazon and order a sex mask. What they had to do in the ’30s, in rural Worcestershire, if they wanted a sex mask, is they would have to walk. And they would walk and walk and walk, miles and miles and miles south from Kidderminster, down what is now the M5. You’ve got the M5, haven’t you? The M40 coming in here, the 42, Banbury way. The 50, Ross on Wye, South Wales, the M4 to Reading, Twyford… Course, back then, it was a leafy lane. But they’d get about halfway down there, where Droitwich, Junction 5, is now. And they’d go off east, not west, round the back of Frog Pond, Bromsgrove… East. Pershore. Erm, Evesham. Vale of Evesham. Where all the vegetables come from. And they would find the potato farm, and Gran would distract the potato farmer with rhetoric and dance. And Grandad would creep in the potato farm, and when he’s found hisself a potato sack, he’d empty all the potatoes out of it and then cut two eyeholes in it. And that was his sex mask, an old potato sack. And he’d put it on, and the hessian would gouge horrible wounds into his crying face. But that was their sex mask, the potato sack. And do you know what? A potato-sack sex mask from off the floor in rural Worcestershire in 1937, that would have meant more to them than… OK, what’s the most treasured possession you’ve got? “Oh, Stew, it’s a photo of our daughter the moment she was born.” Is it? Because that’s meaningless, isn’t it? Compared to a potato-sack sex mask… It is! Because what did you do with that image the moment you took it? You sent it off, didn’t you, to 200 people in your address book, 100 of whom you don’t really know, 50 of whom you actively despise, and every time that image lands, like a wet sock falling into a urinal, a layer of meaning is shaved off it, isn’t it? Shave off the meaning! Shave it all away! Until you’re left with a Turin shroud, gossamer-thin, tracing-paper imprint of this supposedly profound moment in your life that no longer has any value, because you’ve fucked all the meaning out of it again!
And these are the old stories the grandparents used to tell. You’re probably like me, Southend, your grandparents probably used to tell these old stories, and you used to think, didn’t you, “I must write them down, “or tape-record them before they’re all forgotten.” But we never do, do we? I actually did. In the 1970s, I tape-recorded all these old stories of my grandparents. But in the ’80s, when my brother-in-law moved in, he taped a Deacon Blue album over them. Right, that’s the first one of them. Well done. The second and final Deacon Blue joke is right up near the end of the show, but it isn’t the actual end of the show. I do it, and then there’s about 30 seconds more until the actual end of the show. So when you hear the second Deacon Blue joke, don’t go, “Oh, it’s finished now,” and start getting your coat on and wriggling around, just wait! So I was talking there about the S&M and the fetish scene, and it’s a mad, exaggerated example to choose, but it’s a good way, I think, of looking at how our access to information, our access to different cultures, has changed. And our grandparents and our great-grandparents did see incredible changes. My grandad was still around at the sort of start of the internet age, and I remember him talking to me about it. You know, he said he couldn’t believe it. And he did say to me once, he said that in the ’30s, in rural Worcestershire, if he did want to do S&M and fetish stuff… Seriously, I’m not doing a joke now, but he said it was…it was very different. I mean, he said to me, “We just couldn’t find the things, you know.” He said to me, for example, back then, if they wanted to do that sort of thing, you know, there was no Ann Summers deluxe, strawberry-flavoured sex lubricant gel, there was nothing like that. Well, there wasn’t. And all they had then, in the ’30s, in rural Worcestershire, if they wanted to do that sort of thing, was a big lump of dripping. And this was kept, wasn’t it, the dripping on a marble slab out the back, in the pantry, to keep it cool on the marble. And… Yeah, on the marble slab. It’s funny to you, because you think, “Oh, didn’t they have a fridge?” No, mate, they didn’t have a fridge, right? And, you know, maybe it was Christmas, and Grandad was in a good mood, and he’d go, “Come on, Gran, let’s have bondage sex.” Not his own gran, obviously, he wasn’t sick. That’s what he’d call his wife, because he was in love with her. And… They would get undressed there in the freezing-black darkness of the hovel they lived in, shivering and crying in the black dark, the flea bites bleeding all over them. They would put their potato-sack sex masks on. And the hessian would gouge horrible wounds into their faces. Weeping sores. And they’d be shivering and crying in the black dark, and bleeding. And all the while, trying to maintain a state of arousal. And doing it. Because, unlike your cosseted generation, they believed in something, they had values. Not like now. “I’m 33, I like bondage sex. “Get under the duvet where it’s warm, and I’ll harm you.”
I’ve seen… I’ve seen where they lived, the wind howling through the cracks in the stonework, the floor just straw and mud and dung, animal dung, all the farm animals in there with them – sheep, goats, ducks. Some of the ducks were traumatised by the things they saw. They were laying square eggs for years afterwards. And then finally, Gran would go, “Now it’s time to go down “in the cellar and get the coal and light the fire “to put the dripping in the skillet to melt it down.” And Grandad would go down in the cellar, shivering and crying and naked and bleeding in the freezing-black dark, digging up the coal. The coal dust would billow up into his potato-sack sex mask, and he’d be coughing up huge, toxic black globs of poisonous black phlegm, and bleeding and crying in the frozen darkness, until finally the fire was lit. And then Gran would hold up the dripping… ..and at this point, she would always say the same thing to him, and when we were kids and she was telling us this story, we’d go, “Come on, Gran, say the dripping thing.” And she’d go, “No…” She’d have a bit of fun with it, you know. She’d go, “No, I can’t remember it.” And we’d go, “Come on, Gran, say the dripping thing.” “No, people don’t want to hear about that.” Christmas Day, six kids round the table, “Say it, Gran, say it, say the dripping thing, come on!” She’d hold up the dripping, and she’d said to Grandad, she’d say, “Now… “..here’s the dripping. “But remember, “before we melt this dripping down… “..as well as being a lubricant for your selfish pleasure… “..this dripping is also our dinner.” And they would have to make a choice, a very stark choice, a choice unlike any choice your cosseted, spoiled, lazy, facile generation will ever have to make. A choice between the pursuit of selfish pleasure and basic human sustenance and survival. I talked to my grandad years later, he said, if they did choose the pleasure route, if they were careful, they could normally scrape together enough of the dripping…
So, it’s an exaggerated story, that. They didn’t live in Kidderminster. They lived in Malvern Link, which is not as funny a name, is it? So I’ve changed it. Weird that, innit? Why is one name funny and another one’s not funny? What makes things funny? Well… ..if we knew the answer to that question… ..there’d be no need for this whole charade, would there? If you know what made things funny, you could stay at home, couldn’t you? Making yourselves laugh, instead of having to pay a professional to do it for you. And the under-40s have my sympathy, they’ve grown up thinking the values of the free market are normal, that everything’s up for sale and that we are all customers in a set of transactions, whose needs must be met. And everything is up for sale, isn’t it? The forests, national parks, education, health. You know, further education, for example, wasn’t supposed to be a transaction which increased the cash value of the customer in the job market place. Further education was supposed to be an opportunity to participate, ideally for no charge, in a quest to enlarge the global storehouse of all human understanding… ..admittedly whilst drinking heavily subsidised alcohol… ..and losing your virginity in a tower block named after Winnie Mandela. But we’re all customers now, whose needs must be met. And the best example of this customer mentality, I think, I saw on the guestbook of the TripAdvisor holiday review website.
Now, I’ve got a ten-year-old boy and he’s a massive Doctor Who fan. And his favourite Doctor Who thing is not the multi-billion pound Doctor Who World place in Cardiff Bay. It’s a little museum in the cramped two-room cellar of a little cottage in the square of the Herefordshire market town of Bromyard. And this cellar is full of the eccentric owner’s mad collection of Doctor Who props and costumes and sets, all crammed in there. It’s called The Time Machine Doctor Who Museum. And all around Bromyard, there’s posters of the Tardis, it says, The Time Machine Doctor Who Museum, and it is made abundantly clear that The Time Machine Doctor Who Museum is an entirely Doctor Who-based museum. But… There is a one-star review of this Doctor Who museum on TripAdvisor. And it says… “The Time Machine Doctor Who Museum has very limited appeal, “except for Doctor Who fans.” “We were in and out in 25 minutes, “and that was after going round twice.” They went round twice. They went round once, and they couldn’t believe how little non-Doctor Who content there was in the Doctor Who Museum, thought if they went round again, they might see a diorama of the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, or an interactive display of the mating cycle of the Asian short-clawed otter. It’s a Doctor Who museum, you can’t complain that there was too much Doctor Who stuff in the Doctor Who museum. It’s not aimed at you, not everything’s aimed at you. It reminds me of an elderly relative who, on having gone to see Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical Cats, complained to me afterwards that she hadn’t been expecting it all to be just about cats. And a person under 40 came up to me after a gig and he said to me, “I didn’t really enjoy that, to be honest, mate.” And I said, “I don’t know what you expect me to do about it. “You just paid to see me, “and I AM me.”
But we’ve turned away, it would seem to me, from the wider world. Everyone’s looking inwards, back through their own boundaries, back through their own borders. And you have to pay for everything now and nothing comes for free, except the last U2 album. Whether you wanted it or not, you know, like a Trojan virus. And I don’t really know what I’m supposed to say to any of you now, because you all live in a reflecting hall of digital mirrors, made of Facebooks and Twitters and Snapchats and Instagrams and Deliveroos and selfies and Whassaps… You’re the kind of people who are run over by a bus because you were crossing the road whilst looking at a bus timetable app. And they say you shouldn’t keep dolphins in concrete tanks, because the endless sound of their own sonar bouncing back at them eventually drives them mad, like someone locked in an aluminium-lined cell, listening to an endless loop of every ill-considered 2am tweet they ever sent out. And that is you, you are the mental dolphins of now. Inward looking, self-obsessed people with no attention span, hurling yourselves fatally out of your tanks in the self-inflicted wounds of your imagined democratic choices. And it’s no surprise to me that you’ve all gone mad, because you’ve all got phones on you all the time, haven’t you? With cameras, and you all take photos all the time, don’t you, of your face, over and over again. Your face. Your face. Your face. Your face. Why? Surely you all know what your own faces look like now? And your entire online digital history is just an endless succession of images of your face obscuring an endless succession of things that are all more interesting than your face. Here’s me at Stonehenge. Here’s me at the Taj Mahal. Here’s me at the Deacon Blue reunion concert.
And I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to you, or what anyone is supposed to say to anyone. Because nothing that anyone could ever have to say could possibly be as interesting as the ongoing, moment-by-moment documentation of your entire lives. And so, when I look at this painting…
Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 German romantic masterpiece, Wanderer Above A Sea Of Fog, I see a man like me, 200 years ago now, looking out into the world and trying to make sense of it, and his place in it, instead of just using it as a backdrop for his own narcissism. But this, this is you now…
Do you think that it could be said you are projecting your own narcissism onto the entire rest of modern culture? Yeah, I mean, they could say that, and I was worried that someone would think that, because it’s arguably true. But I don’t give them time to make that conclusion, because as soon as the blackout’s had just a second to register, I fling the lights up, play really loud music, and run away. That’s very courageous of you, Stewart.
ROCK MUSIC PLAYS