Tag Archives: stewart lee

A finely-honed comic missile of a duo

I have mentioned their names before in this blog, but I have never just said it: Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, as Lee & Herring, are the best comedy double act I’ve ever seen. There, I said it. Out loud. In words.

While some may dislike Lee for his monotonous, plodding delivery and how he labours over every single point made, and some may think Herring is an idiotic, childish, sexist berk, the combination of the two does two things. One, it makes it harder to notice these alleged faults, as both comic personalities cover each other’s bad points. Two, it helps you to realise they’re both actually brilliant comedians with finely honed stage personalities ripe to be misunderstood by the general public.

They were the double act that would spend lunch time on a Sunday dissecting the very nature of how to tell a joke, while at the same time having a go at boring, formulaic comedy:

They were the double act that – while Songs of Praise was on BBC One at the same time – would have far more interesting religious programming:

They taught me about the possessive apostrophe:

They showed me how Braveheart really ended:

And they had St George glassing a crow at lunch time on a Sunday:

One problem I have with their existence, however, is the fact that if other people see their act they will realise that every single thing I say in my life, ever, is because of them. It’s either a direct quote modified to suit the situation or just a few words or phrases here and there stolen wholesale. Lee and Herring reveal me to be unoriginal and a fraud. The bastards.

Fortunately this shocking admission won’t be noticed by anyone, seeing as this blog is read by nobody. HAH.

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The five worst comedians

You’ll often see lists extolling the virtues of many stand-up comedians. The most likely chaps on these lists will be comedy gods like Stewart Lee, Yanks like Zack Galifianakis, underrated gems like Sean Lock and “comedy missiles” like Eugene Mirman. Fair enough, but these people are now on every list everywhere, so there’s nothing new to be said now. Plus there’s the fact that people don’t listen to these lists and instead continue to support some astonishingly bad comedians. As this is the case, here’s a list of some comedians you shouldn’t like, as they are shit. All decisions are final.

1. Russell Howard.

A bit mean, as I do actually like the guy, and he is quite funny. Two things though: his act hasn’t changed – at all – in years, and live he gets boring after about 45 minutes. This is fact you cannot argue with.

2. Dane Cook.

For those unfamiliar:

Look at those idiots in the crowd. They’re actually worse than him, as all they do is encourage this utter waste of skin.

3. Peter Kay

Now, being northern I’m supposed to love this guy. I don’t. He has confused the art of observational humour with the act of ‘saying what things are’. Absolute lowest common denominator demi-comedy that would be the worst thing on this list were it not for the next entry.

4. Michael Mcintyre

The reason this list exists. The man is the least talented arse alive and so many people have been drawn in by his… by his what? Well, most likely by his astonishingly boring jokes, his hilarious camp mannerisms and the fact that he’s just a southern Peter Kay (see above). Stop supporting this muppet: I am a better stand-up than he is, and I’m not a stand-up. This tells you all you need to know.

5. Most female comedians

Wah wah sexist: shut up. I’m just being correct, as always. Generally speaking, female comedians (comediennes, whatever) are not funny. See: Catherine Tate, for a quick example. There are exceptions – Lucy Porter, for a second quick example – but there are far too many shit ones for a handful to redress the balance. So there.

And that’s that. Truth has been spoken, Ian has gone done said it all.

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Arnold Schwarzenegreview #2 – Commando

Commando is another of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s films that has had untold effects on society as a whole. It is the tale of John Matrix – played by Schwarzenegger – and his quest to rescue his kidnapped daughter from the clutches of a South American ex-dictator and his chainmail-wearing partner (who also happens to be Matrix’s former special forces squadmate, and who is definitely not gay). But how has Commando shaped the very world around it? How has it made us all dance a merry dance to its particular brand of whims? Read on, dear… reader.

In a similar way to Orwell’s essay on the written use of English, in the same way Bukowski managed to tear down the walls of conventional poetry and make it as accessible as it was poignant, Matrix tantalises the part of our brain that appreciates language. He toys with the very notion of what meaning is, and while he is always saying things with a nod and a wink to the audience (an invisible one, natch), he never tells a lie or goes out of his way to befuddle either his compatriots or the audience. When Cindy asks what happened to the tiny bad guy Sully, Matrix responds: “I let him go” – not only is this hilarious in the extreme, it is also a direct reflection of the situation we as an audience have just witnessed. It isn’t a lie what Matrix says, but it is worded in such a fashion to make Cindy believe Sully has been released back into the wild, where he belongs, when in actual fact he has been dropped off the edge of a cliff.

This magnificent, double-edged use of language occurs on numerous occasions throughout Commando: “He’s dead tired”, referring to a man who Matrix has just snapped the neck of (it’s hard to see why out of context, but the play on words there is ‘dead’, as the man is literally dead); “let’s take Cook’s car, he won’t be needing it”, it is a statement of fact that he will not be needing his car, but what Matrix leaves to the audience to figure out is that he won’t be needing the car because he is deceased; and of course, the classic: “Let off some steam, Bennett!” where Matrix is referring to the duality of the situation – both that Bennett (recently impaled with a length of steel piping, which has ruptured through a high-pressure steam vent behind him) has literal steam rushing from his chest wound, and that Bennett needs to calm down a bit, as he is quite angry (and clearly repressing his homosexuality).

It’s safe to say that Commando doesn’t offer us the same kind of life lessons that Predator does, but all the same it has a valuable place in the history of humanity. Without Matrix and his quips, would we have ever recognised the potential for plays on words, dual meanings or intentionally ambiguous statements? I think not. And without these lessons, it is likely that comedy in its current form would simply not exist. After all, it is the greatest comedian of our times, Stewart Lee, who stated: “The flexibility of the English language allows us to imagine that we are an inherently witty nation, when in fact we just have a vocabulary and a grammar that allow for endlessly amusing confusions of meanings.” He didn’t go on to add – but probably should have – that this would not have been possible were it not for the trailblazing wordsmithery of Commando’s Matrix.

So thank you John Matrix. You have made the world a happier place by teaching us how language can be used so effectively and how it can be tamed in order to do most of the work for us. I’d just like to let you know we appreciate it.

Every day is a school day: John Matrix’s daughter, Jenny, is played by Alyssa Milano. She went on to play Phoebe in the popular witch-based TV show ‘Charmed’.

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