For all sorts of reasons, I’ve been very quiet of late; hopefully I’ll be doing more in March. However, it was nice to be given the opportunity to stand in for a late cancellation at Marta Adamovicz’s “A Little Bit of Theatre” event at 13th Note in Glasgow. Since the demise of Words per Minute, there has been a dearth of regular opportunities for live reading in Glasgow, so this is a welcome relative newcomer.
An informal spoken word and music event, it has a nice, eclectic feel about it, with readers, performers, film, music and comedy to keep the interest levels high. Marta herself is a charming, warmly eccentric hostess and a pretty mean film maker. Amongst the highlights was fellow Glasgow Writers’ Group pal Alex Cox giving an excoriatingly funny reading of “Jesus is a Fat Fuck”, full of sly metaphysical wit and tons of grab-you-by-the-throat vernacular. Star of the show for me, though, was final stand up Keiron Nicholson, a guy with an instantly likable personality and well-worked routines on everything from computer geekdom to the inanities scrawled on the walls of Phnom Phen torture memorial site Tuol Sleng. He’s effortlessly funny and, I hope, destined for stardom. He’s in a new show for the Glasgow Comedy Festival on March the 29th at the State Bar: well worth checking out.
For my own slot, I satisfied an itch to read the whole of “The Beauty that Brendan Sees”; I’ve done sections of it on podcast and live, but I’ve been pretty desperate to do the whole thing. Called in only the evening before, I didn’t have enough rehearsal or editing time, but managed to perform it with minimal reference to the script and, I hope, a fair amount of the required charisma. As for the dodgy American accent – well, now that’s out of my system, I can put it to bed and revert to in-yer-face scary Glaswegian stories. It may be more authentic, but audiences are much less likely to sleep at night…
It’s difficult to pin down exactly what Stewart Lee does that’s so funny, but funny he is. First, I think, is that he is a master at exploiting awkward moments: there’s nothing so uncomfortable in a comedy routine as half a minute of silence, not even a titter to break the stare Lee aims at the audience. Secondly, he shares with many comics the art of the surreal, free-fall tangent, especially during an extended imaginary phone call to an estate agent regarding the purchase of a home, one of the requirements of which is a view of otters frolicking at the bottom of the garden. Thirdly, he is capable of winning world-weariness á la Jack Dee or barely concealed fury that has him shuffling in his jacket, all of which give his act a sense of emotional movement.
But probably it’s his delicious wickedness which is his forte. There’s nothing more effective at getting an audience on your side than a complicity in a view so outrageous you just know you can’t possibly repeat it outside the theatre. Chief among these moments is his assertion that Richard “The Hamster” Hammond (not even a real hamster) should have been decapitated in that car crash, his head bouncing along the track into a pool of blazing fuel, his brain stem conscious just long enough to register that things were getting a bit hot. “I’m only joking,” he says, “just like Top Gear. But, coincidentally…”
This is an added show, and half past five isn’t exactly the best time to to warm up a sober audience, but Lee works the stage – and the stalls and the dress circle – really well. What’s noticeable is how he can be so in-your-face, and yet the swearing quotient is at a minimum. I’ve no problem with anyone who uses “bad language”, whatever that is, but Lee shows that confrontation can be just effective when it’s cerebral rather than visceral. One of the better stand-ups around.