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Stewart Lee
Born
Height
5"10 1.78m
Occupation
Writer, stand-up comedian, director
Career milestones
Fist of Fun (1993-1995)

This Morning with Richard Not Judy (1998-1999)

Jerry Springer: The Opera (2001-2005)

90's Comedian (2005-2006)

41st Best Stand Up Ever! (2007-2008)

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle
(2009)
Official website
stewartlee.co.uk
Stewart Graham Lee (born 5 April 1968 in Shropshiremarker) is an Englishmarker stand-up comedian, writer and director probably best known for being one half of the 1990s comedy duo Lee and Herring, and for co-writing and directing the critically-acclaimed and controversial stage show Jerry Springer - The Opera. He grew up in the West Midlands, where he attended Solihull Schoolmarker. Lee is married to fellow comic Bridget Christie, with whom he has one son. He is a supporter of the British Humanist Association.

Career to 2000

While studying English at St Edmund Hall, Oxfordmarker in the 1980s, he wrote and performed comedy in a revue group called "The Seven Raymonds" with Richard Herring, Emma Kennedy, Michael Cosgrave, Richard Canning and Tim Richardson, but did not perform in the well-known Oxford Revue, though he did write for and direct the 1989 Revue. Having moved to London and begun performing stand up comedy after university, he rose to greater prominence in 1990, winning the prestigious Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition.

With Richard Herring, Lee wrote material for BBC Radio 4's On the Hour (1991), which was anchored by Chris Morris and was notable for the first appearance of Steve Coogan's celebrated character, Alan Partridge, for which Lee and Herring wrote much early material. After a disagreement with the rest of the cast, Lee & Herring did not remain with the group when On The Hour moved to television as The Day Today and their material was excised from an official release of the radio show in the mid 90s (though a 2008 CD release would see it re-instated).

In 1992 and 1993, he and Herring wrote and performed Lionel Nimrod's Inexplicable World for BBC Radio 4, before moving to BBC Radio 1, for one series of Fist of Fun (1993). This was followed by three series entitled, simply Lee and Herring. These shows mixed sketches with live links and music, in a format that Radio 1 seemed to favour at the time (other classic examples of such include shows by Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci, and Simon Munnery in his guise as "Alan Parker: Urban Warrior"). Fist of Fun moved to television for two BBC Two series, and was followed in 1998 by This Morning with Richard Not Judy, which featured material in a similar vein, but was notable for being broadcast live in a Sunday morning slot.

A change in BBC management after the second series of the latter effectively brought his partnership with Herring to an end but the two comedians still share a similarity of humour.

Throughout the late nineties he continued performing solo stand-up (something that has always been a mainstay of his career - even whilst in the double act with Herring) and has collaborated with, amongst others, Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh. Indeed, though they had worked together in the past, the first seeds of the Boosh were sown whilst working as part of Lee's Edinburgh show King Dong vs Moby Dick in which Barratt and Fielding played a giant penis and a whale, respectively. Lee returned the favour by going on to direct their 1999 Edinburgh show, Arctic Boosh, which remains the template of all their live work.

He is noted for his diverse musical taste. He once said that the only band he liked that anyone else has heard of was R.E.M.. He is, famously, a huge fan of The Fall. He has written music reviews for a number of outlets including since 1995 The Sunday Times. Through the early 2000s, he became a regular presenter on, and patron of, Resonance FM 104.4.

Career 2000-2004

In 2001, Lee published his first novel, The Perfect Fool. It attracted a degree of critical acclaim as a debut novel, but this was not matched in sales figures. It is still in print. In the same year he performed Pea Green Boat, a stand-up show which revolved around the deconstruction of the Edward Lear poem The Owl and the Pussycat and a tale of his own broken toilet. This would later be condensed to focus mainly on the poem itself, and a 15 minute version aired on Radio 4. In 2007, Go Faster Stripe released a 25-minute edit on CD & 10" Vinyl.

In 2002, Lee played the role of Carey in the Doctor Who webcast Real Time, together with Richard Herring as Renchard and Colin Baker as the Doctor, and accepted an offer from the composer Richard Thomas to contribute ideas to the fledgling production, Jerry Springer - The Opera.

Whilst Lee found himself gradually performing less and less standup and moving away from the stage, he continued his directorial duties on television. Two rejected pilots were filmed for Channel 4, Cluub Zarathrustra and Head Farm. Neither went to series. The former, however, would feature all the ingredients that would later appear in Attention Scum, a BBC2 series fronted by Simon Munnery's League Against Tedium character, which also featured the likes of Kevin Eldon, Johnny Vegas and Roger Mann, as well as Richard Thomas and opera singer Lori Lixenberg, in their guise as "Kombat Opera".

All the while, the theatre piece Jerry Springer - The Opera had been evolving. From its small scale beginnings as a scratch piece at Battersea Arts Centremarker, it achieved its finished form at London's National Theatremarker via performances at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe.

At the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Lee directed Johnny Vegas's first DVD, Who's Ready For Ice Cream?, a move away from the traditional "stand-up comic releases a DVD" format, involving a plot in which Vegas loses his comedy "mojo" and has to track it down via a journey of personal discovery. The DVD also features footage of Vegas' actual standup set as additional extras.

In 2004, Lee returned to stand-up comedy with the show Standup Comedian, which earned him a "Tap Water Award" in Edinburgh and was released on DVD in October 2005. This features extra footage of performances from his earlier career on Five's "Comedy Network". This show was toured extensively throughout the UK, Australia and USA.

2005: Jerry Springer The Opera

In January 2005, Jerry Springer - The Opera, a satirical musical/opera based upon The Jerry Springer Show, was broadcast on BBC Two, following a highly acclaimed West Endmarker run for several years, and as a prelude to the show's UK Tour.Christian Voice led a number of protest groups who claimed that the show was blasphemous and highly offensive. In particular, they were angered by the portrayal of Jesus Christ in the show. Disputes arose, with supporters of the show claiming that most of the protesters had neither seen the show nor knew of its actual content. Others supported the show's right to freedom of speech. Several Christian groups protested at some of the venues of the UK Tour. The show was broadcast with a record number of complaints prior to its airing. A private court case brought by Christian Voice against Lee and others involved with the production for blasphemy was rejected by a Magistrates' Court.

In 2005, Lee tackled the subject of the religious hatred he experienced after the broadcast of Jerry Springer - The Opera in his stand-up show, 90s Comedian. This show has earned him some of the best reviews of his career, largely due to the un-checked vitriol he unleashes in the latter half of the set, "taking no prisoners" in his attempt to display what he claimed was the lunacy of sacred cows.

A recording was made in Cardiffmarker in March 2006. This was filmed by a group of amateur enthusiasts who were disappointed that there was no distribution deal in place because of the commercial failure of the Standup Comedian DVD and the controversial nature of the new show's material.These "enthusiastic amateurs" became GoFasterStripe and, having set themselves up in order to film the show, have gone on to film the works of many other "non-mainstream" comedians, including several by Lee's former partner Richard Herring.

2006

Many assumed Lee would bring a new hour of stand up to Edinburgh in 2006 to consolidate his "comeback" success, but he did not.Implying that it might have happened under different circumstances, he commented at the time on his website that, "I assumed I was going to be working out 6 half hours of stand-up for a TV project but it fell through".However, he did visit the festival in capacity of director with a production of the Eric Bogosian play Talk Radio with a cast which included Phil Nichol, Mike McShane, Will Adamsdale, Stephen K Amos and Tony Law.

2006 appears to have been an eventful year for Lee. As well as his directorial contribution to Talk Radio, he gigged regularly and appeared on television and radio, in - amongst others - Armando Iannucci's, Time Trumpet, as a version of himself thirty years in the future looking back and commentating on the present day. The show ran on BBC2 between August & 6 September 2006.Also in August, Lee presented a programme in the Five series Don't Get Me Started. The documentary discussed the issues of blasphemy, free speech, religious censorship and the rise in protests from religious groups over perceived attacks on their faith. This was of course of some interest to Lee, especially considering his experience in the Jerry Springer -The Opera controversy. (See above)He separated from his long standing management company, Avalon, for reasons undisclosed, and appeared on the BBC Radio 4 quiz Quote Unquote, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and on Have I Got News for You, purportedly to pay for his wedding.

In October, he presented a forty year tribute to Star Trek on BBC Radio 2, and in November, presented White Face, Dark Heart, two programmes on Radio 4 about clowns, during which he fulfilled a ten-year desire to witness the rituals of New Mexicomarker's sacred clowns. These shows are available to download on his official website.

On top of all this, he curated a CD for the Sonic Arts Network called The Topography of Chance. Lee explored different artists, writers and musician’s experiments with randomness and chance and brought together an eclectic mix of artists including tracks by; Simon Munnery, Arthur Smith, The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Jem Finer, Kombat Opera, Jon Rose and more.

2007

January saw Lee open his show What Would Judas Do in double bill with Mark Ravenhill's Product: World Remix at London's Bush Theatre.He announced at the time that he was also writing - with Tony Law a sitcom pilot about the god Thor, for BBC Two, and script-editing another pilot, a sitcom about the Brontë sisters.In February, he organised a tribute to cult comedian Ted Chippington entitled "Tedstock" at London's Bloomsbury Theatre. This was designed, in part, to raise money to fund a CD release of Chippington's work - which was available to buy on the night, entitled "Walking Down The Road". The show included a one-off performance from Lee and Herring, along with fellow Ted fans Simon Munnery, The Nightingales, Phil Jupitus, Josie Long and Stephen Carlin.

Lee's first new stand up show since "90s Comedian" was developed over the first half of 2007, originally to be named March Of The Mallards (a title parodying that of the film, March of the Penguins), it would be renamed before its full debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival of that year, and subsequent Autumn tour. This was because, in March 2007, Lee was named 41st best stand-up of all time in a Channel 4 survey listing the "100 best standups". In this poll, he beat Dave Allen, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Tommy Cooper. Channel 4 did not reveal exactly how the voting was conducted, but 150,000 members of the public were polled, as were an undisclosed number of experts.

In the light of this result Lee renamed his Summer 2007 stand-up show 'Stewart Lee - 41st Best Stand Up Ever!' as he felt it was "both arrogant and humble". During the show he joked that since Bernard Manning (who had been placed above him in the poll) had died since the Channel 4 poll had first aired, he felt he should be moved up to Number 40. Another project, "Johnson & Boswell, Late But Live", written by Lee & performed by comics Simon Munnery and Miles Jupp played throughout the festival at the Traverse Theatremarker before embarking upon a tour of Scotland.

July 2007, saw the premiere of "Interiors" at the Manchestermarker festival, a site-specific theatre piece co-written with Johnny Vegas.

2008

2008 began, as 2007 had ended, with the continuing tour of "41st Best Standup". It became Lee's longest tour to date, and was filmed at the Glasgow Stand for DVD release by Real Talent in April (the DVD hit stores in July).

Lee also co wrote 'Poets' Tree' with close friend & collaborator, the actor Kevin Eldon. This was a BBC Radio 4 series that was aired in April 2008, based on Paul Hamilton, Eldon's arrogant poet alter-ego.

2008's Edinburgh Festival saw Lee running in material for his recently announced BBC2 series, "Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle", in a work in progress show at The Stand, billed as "Scrambled Egg". Over the three weeks of the festival, Lee worked on a large quantity of new material, and updated old favourites for possible inclusion in the show, which began filming the following November. A follow up to Johnson & Boswell also aired, again featuring Munnery & Jupp. "Elizabeth & Raleigh, Late But Live" was performed at the festival before touring the country in the autumn. In November, Lee began filming for his 2009 TV show, and on the 16th November, reunited with Herring another one off performance of their old double act at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith during one of the gigs Richard Herring curated there. They were joined by Paul Putner in character as the Curious Orange. With initial filming out of the way, "Scrambled Egg" was reprised at London's Hen & Chickens Theatre in December to fully polish the stand up sections of the forthcoming TV project ahead of filming in January 2009.

2009

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, a new six part comedy series featuring standup and sketches, began a six episode run on 16 March 2009. It is executively produced by Armando Iannucci and script edited by Chris Morris. The first episode received positive reviews from The Independent and The Daily Mirror. The show received a negative review in Time Out, which described Lee as "fat" and his performance as "positively Neanderthal, suggesting a jungle-dwelling pygmy, struggling to coax notes out of a clarinet that has fallen from a passing aircraft", though this review was written by Lee himself.

The first episode was watched by approximately 1 million viewers, though the figure rose by 25% when BBC iPlayer viewings were factored in and, uncharacteristically, viewing figures rose over the series. The series was the BBC's second most downloaded broadcast during its run.

Lee also has a show at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, named Stewart Lee: If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One in which he performed his own version of the song Galway Girl.. In the Galway stage of this show Sharon Shannon performed the song with Lee. He is currently touring the show around the UK.

He is due to follow up his 2001 novel, The Perfect Fool, with a book about Stand-Up comedy entitled 'How I Escaped My Fate'. He is also due to appear on Celebrity Mastermind, with jazz-improv guitarist Derek Bailey as his special subject.

Books

  • Fist of Fun (with Richard Herring; non-fiction) BBC Books, 1995. ISBN 0563371854; ISBN 978-0563371854
  • The Perfect Fool (novel) Fourth Estate, 2001. ISBN 1841153656; ISBN 978-1841153650
  • Sit-Down Comedy (contributor to anthology, ed Malcolm Hardee & John Fleming) Ebury Press/Random House, 2003. ISBN 0091889243; ISBN 978-0091889241


DVDs

  • Stewart Lee - Stand Up Comedian [2005]
  • Stewart Lee - 90s Comedian [2006] Released by Go Faster Stripe
  • Stewart Lee - '41st Best Stand Up Ever' [2008]
  • Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle [2009]


CDs

  • Stewart Lee - What would Judas do? [2009] Released by Go Faster Stripe
  • Stewart Lee - Pea Green Boat Released by Go Faster Stripe


References



External links




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