Stewart Lee: Basic Lee at The Lyceum review: deconstructive comedian rips into the craft in sardonic style

Comedian Stewart Lee continues to rip up the rules of comedy in hilarious Basic Lee performance
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Stewart Lee is difficult to pin down as a comedian, because there really is no-one else like him on the circuit today.

In Basic Lee, he tells us how the broadsheets love his unique style whilst at the same time ripping into his fanbase, who he describes as bald bearded men who probably only pretend to like him, and advertise him to their partners as ‘almost not even a comedian’.

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When a couple of stragglers come into the show late, he explains how this isn’t the sort of set you can come into halfway through, and later lays into these latecomers several times over his set for missing the setup for a punchline delivered 40 minutes later.

Stewart Lee in Basic Lee. Photo by Steve Ullathorne ( Lee in Basic Lee. Photo by Steve Ullathorne (
Stewart Lee in Basic Lee. Photo by Steve Ullathorne (

When another member of the audience tries to unobtrusively leave his seat, presumably to nip to the bathroom, he pauses his routine to explain how he has been thrown off, and the whole flow of the evening has been irreparably damaged, though it’s all in good fun, we think.

Lee revels in the idea that a significant portion of his audience won’t be familiar with his style - deconstructing the art of comedy to the nth degree - and will probably hate his set.

But he plays up for his die-hard fans, giving us rambling, detour-filled monologues about his only good opening joke, why his audience envy him, the history of jazz, and the effect of Brexit on his DVD sales.

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There’s also one particularly brilliant beatdown on Fleabag and how it reached underserved levels of fame because of its ‘no-one had ever broken the fourth wall before’.

He’s also able to throw in plenty of local references - Lee spoke about how Sheffield’s high street is in such a mess that there are comedians in Gaza setting up an appeal for the Steel City.

Although he’s been touring with Basic Lee since 2022, the comedian has kept the show fresh, updating elements and continuing to rip into the madness of the Tory party and the revolving door to the cabinet.

Basic Lee is an experience that is best seen live - Lee plays off the audience, putting them down as he rallies them to laughter with tirades that could only be funny coming from his mouth.

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