IF Stewart Lee’s latest stand-up show is essentially one giant confidence trick then at least he’s totally upfront about it.
“I have nothing…” he deadpans at various intervals to describe his apparent lack of material, thanks to a life that now consists solely of travelling around the UK’s motorway network by night on an extensive gig itinerary and watching Scooby Doo cartoons with his son by day.
But, of course, that’s all a typical labyrinthine ruse by Lee which feeds into another impeccable lesson in constructing - and most importantly deconstructing - a whole host of disparate ideas.
As a keen student of the mechanics of comedy, Lee has increasingly attempted to stretch and subvert the form. There’s an edginess and unpredictability about his performance style which remains refreshingly unique and challenging.
Thanks to his award-winning BBC2 Comedy Vehicle show, he’s aware that some Johnny-come-lately fans may be here by mistake simply looking for an easy-going night out. “I don’t like ‘new’ people” he says of his audience “This isn’t for you.” And you get the sense he’s only half joking.
It’s a notion he played with throughout here, sectioning off the crowd between his faithful following that have been there for the long haul and those in the balconies who are less ‘informed’.
Titled Carpet Remnant World, this show finds Lee providing a framework and a cheeky wink of an excuse for rolling out a grab bag of ideas which took in topical political potshots at David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, Anders Breivik, anti-Muslim hysteria, vicious put-downs of lowest common denominator observational comedians and, of course, Jeremy Clarkson. Lee will never let an opportunity pass to lambast Top Gear’s controversial host.
There’s also an extended surrealist flight of fancy which managed to tangentially tie in the aforementioned Scooby Doo with an anti-Thatcherite rant of hilarious proportions.
In the hands of less accomplished stand-ups, it would be easy to spot the seams here but he’s managed to weave them together with such verve that his material seems anything but threadbare. There you go, three carpet-related puns for the price of one.