Stewart Lee: Carpet Remnant World; Friday 24th of August 2012
Edinburgh Fringe: The Assembly Rooms
Quick review: This show wasn’t great, not even good. Disappointing; 4/10.
Longer review: It was a nice touch to see the comic sharing a drink in the bar area pre-show, which gave me some optimism for (what I assumed) what should be an educated and intellectual but different outlook on relevant subject matters. It was while in this same said area that my friend (who had bought me the ticket) pointed out the name of the show itself “Carpet Remnant World”, I mulled it over a few minutes and even then I wasn’t disheartened. I imagined depressing comparisons to the dregs of carpets, how the whole had been cut and snipped, how there is still a place for the leftovers ala The Raggy Dolls. So the ambience prior to seating was a positive one and having already both been to the Assembly Rooms the previous week my friend and I knew to get an early start if we wanted better seats than our previous visit. So we headed to the balcony and found good seats. As with all these gatherings of humanity I like to gauge the cliental, it was a mixed bunch, many had plastic bags with them? Then I saw the stage, I saw the symbolism. Rolled up, vertical carpets of various lengths, side by side look like a sky line, and then I started to hope this wasn’t going to be the joke….a world of carpets. Then the lights went down, and the stage was lit so as to appear like a skyline, I felt a slight cringe.
As with all intelligent performers, skilled in their art, they will place structure, subtlety and socially relevant material. Stewart Lee did this, that cannot be denied, but his efforts by his own standards were poor. Lee’s structure did have a beginning, middle and an end; however this was obvious by the massive jump between topics as opposed to a smooth link. The subtlety used (by Lee’s own admission) was too smart for the audience so he took it upon himself to explain the material in depth. This is nothing new, indeed many good sketches have been performed by applying an objective perspective on something basic or innocent (aka Lee’s postcard sketch) however this was a personal slate at the audience, which however clearly written in became tedious quickly as he kept referring to it throughout the performance. Most didn’t laugh, not through a lack of realising the joke (or punch line) rather it wasn’t funny, it was lazy writing. This allowed Stewart his opening in to (what become old quick) a tirade on the audience’s intellect and how his comedy was beyond most of us. As a standalone one off bit of fun would have worked, but he kept going back to it constantly, which after a while became slightly irritating. Yes, similar is given in Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, but why refer to the paying punter as the butt of the joke? Why not the guy who didn’t come to the show? The socially relevant material was good and indeed opened the show which gave a false impression, moving from politics, to social networking, to parenting, however by Lee’s standards this was not deep, nor particularly diverse or abstract in thinking, which as a fan of Lee came as a disappointment.
Then, amidst the numerous off stage looks and checks of his watch, Lee, like a desperate man throw his weight behind his ‘title’ material. As aforementioned I imagined depressing comparisons to the dregs of carpets, how the whole had been cut and snipped, how there is still a place for the leftovers ala The Raggy Dolls. “Imagine if you went in to Carpet Remnant World and everything was made of carpets?” Or “Imagine you went in to Stationary World and everything was made of stationary”. In all fairness Lee did apologise for his lack of depth, blaming the fact he is now a parent and spends all day driving around, hardly means the radio cannot be turned on? A quick flick through Google and I bring up several better sources of material, for example Ideal world; a shop that sells ideals! That alone could be stretched in to an hour’s material, warranties, sales pitches, insurance, sales people etc. I can see Lee panicking in his own mind, weeks before the start, mulling over the potential negative reaction, so throughout he sprinkled little hints of intellect, such as referring to the sacred rules of comedy; rule 3, if in doubt with a joke add arse at the end to get a titter if nothing else.
Stewart Lee’s fringe show 2012 was not anything special, bottom line (comedy guide book, rule 3). Yes….while most headed for the doors, I noted the final joke…..an arse reference, oh how the mighty have fallen.