Stewart Lee 1 Colchester 0

The explanation on the introductory page to this blog tells us (although I already knew) that the blog is largely about me watching football matches and maybe reviewing the occasional book. Good luck in finding the book reviews. But it is summer now, the swifts and swallows are here, I have strawberries growing in my garden, I am regularly eating barbecued food and as I write this I am enjoying the sensation of having bare feet and exposed legs; life is sweet and there aren’t any football matches to go to. Happily, life goes on in wonderful football-free ways and a few weeks ago I went to the Mercury Theatre in Colchester with three friends to see the ‘comedian’ Stewart Lee. I put the word comedian in inverted commas because, as Stewart Lee takes time to explain, he is not like Michael McIntyre or Russell Howard; he is not a populist comedian, his humour is partly jokes about jokes (metahumour) and certainly in my experience some people don’t understand that, but he is critically acclaimed and is perhaps Britain’s ninth best comedian.
Stewart Lee de-constructs comedy, he is able to do this because he is a very clever bloke; he went to Oxford. Of course I went to Oxford too, but to the Manor Ground and Kassam Stadium, Stewart Lee had a place at the university. That last sentence was a sort of a joke; I said I’d been to Oxford like Stewart Lee, trying to make you think that I had been a student at the university; but I then qualified the statement by saying that I had actually only been to Oxford to visit the home ground of Oxford United Football Club. This is a football blog of course, hence the football reference. But my explanation is in the style of Stewart Lee, although he would have first berated you as the audience for not having laughed enough, implying that you are not intelligent enough to understand the joke, hence the need to explain it. Anyway, that’s what Stewart Lee’s humour is like; it is self-referential, comedy about comedy and you might say it’s existential. Existential philosophy is about being and the ‘being of being’ what it means to be, to exist. If you’re not entirely following this now you should probably seek out a different sort of football blog, perhaps one by Gary Neville or Alan Brazil. Haha! That was another bit of Stewart Lee type humour there, did you spot it?
Former footballers who become pundits indulge unknowingly or unselfconsciously and without the necessary irony in a version of Stewart Lee’s style of humour. The likes of Robbie Savage will opine that no one can comment authentically and with real credibility on professional football unless they have played the game like he has, by which he doesn’t mean badly. Robbie Savage and those of his ilk say that you and I don’t understand the game. Of course he is completely wrong; in fact our views are the only ones that are valid because we haven’t been infantilised like he has by making a living and a career by merely playing a game. Playing Doctors and Nurses as a child is nothing like being a doctor or a nurse, but playing football really is just playing football, wherever and whenever.
Last season at Portman Road we could have witnessed some Stewart Lee humour too, as some supporters publicly, and others more privately, condemned manager Mick McCarthy for the poor standard of the football played by his team; “Your football is shit, your football is shit, Mick McCarthy, your football is shit” they sang, to the tune of Sloop John B, possibly the only tune Ipswich football supporters now know although for my money it is one of the more disappointing tracks on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album. They didn’t seem to understand however that Mick is only out to get results and with the resources he has available, a bunch of not particularly talented players, playing “shit football” was probably going to bring in more points than trying to play attractive football. Mick McCarthy didn’t really say too much, but he was clearly a little exasperated by the ‘supporters’ at times and I like to think that when the team did win, and on one occasion late in the season they managed to win two consecutive games, he was tempted to deliver his post-match press conference as Stewart Lee and to sneer at the crowd for not having understood that his team had won. A regional newspaper review of one of Stewart Lee’s TV shows once stated “His whole tone is one of complete, smug condescension” and that I think is what Mick McCarthy should be aiming for in his post-match press conferences. Stewart Lee used the phrase to advertise his next tour and Mick’s CV would be all the better for his use of it too.
Football is just a game, a laugh, everyone needs to understand that.
Anyway, Stewart Lee at The Mercury Theatre, Colchester was great; I hadn’t laughed so much since ……I don’t know, I really should start to make notes on how much I laugh and when. Finally, if you liked this ‘review’ of Stewart Lee, such as it is, then you have possibly seen him already and if you didn’t you might not want to.