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Please, BBC. See sense.
Stewart Lee is one of the UK’s premier comedians, the most intelligent certainly, and I believe, the finest. He’s been in the public consciousness since 1994 where he performed weekly with his comedy double-act partner Richard Herring, in the tv series Fist of Fun.
Fist of Fun went on to have two successful series on BBC 2 before the show was cancelled. But in 1998 they were back with their masterpiece This Morning with Richard not Judy. This too ran for two series before another heartless, humourless BBC exec cancelled it.
And then there were the lean years in the wilderness. Stewart gave up comedy for a few years and became an arts reviewer for newspapers. Eventually he would be asked by his friend Richard Thomas to help write Jerry Springer, the Opera. This made him into a household name (when the BBC announced they would be screening a performance of the musical starring no less a man than David Soul) not for the performance itself, but for the mass hysteria of the rentamob religious maniacs who screamed it down and had many performances withdrawn by the venues.
These misguided people succeeded in turning a fairly mediocre show into a thing of utmost evil which no sane person could disagree with. Or could they? Anyone who was aware of Monty Python’s Life of Brian will have seen such scenes before and must surely have been dismayed, as I was that history was repeating itself. What should have been a financial boost for Mr Lee turned into a large amount of debt.
But in 2008 somehow the BBC remembered who he was and that he was funny and commissioned a new series for him. The results were impressive. Part stand-up, part sketches, Stewart Lee’s intelligence shone through.
I went to see him in June this year on the bill with a lot of other comedians (including his former comedy partner, Richard Herring) perform a benefit gig in Hackney for the homeless. The audience was full for the other acts, but when Stewart Lee came on suddenly there were a lot more people sitting in the aisles, on the stairs and standing at the back. This man is not underappreciated, people know his work and love him for it.
Stewart Lee has carved out his own style where he relentlessly nags at a subject until he has destroyed it’s edifice, revealing the truth. His destruction of the Magners Pear Cider adverts is an experience not to be missed.
He recently wrote in an article for the Financial Times that the success of the series has led to better venues for his stand-up and he could finally afford a mortgage for a two-bedroom house so that his son can now sleep in a separate room from his parents.
When it became known on Twitter today that the BBC have not recommissioned his Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle for a second series (you can buy DVDs here) I was heartened to see that there is now a petition to convince the BBC of their folly. Again. When I saw it it was 429 signatures, an hour later it was 629. This is just the twitterverse, there must be many of you out there who are aware of his work and would love to see more. Please sign the petition, it might be pointless or it might do some good. Only time will tell. Tell your friends.
Sign the Petition and when you’ve done that, go search Youtube for “Stewart Lee” – you won’t be disappointed. Unless you actually like Miranda Hart’s new appalling sitcom… which has been recommissioned.
Note: this Lee and Herring site is a wonderful resource for the fans of these two comedians.
UPDATE: 9th February 2010 – Armando Iannucci has revealed on Twitter that a second series has been commissioned! Huzzah!