Two minutes of postpunk gold.
And the book doesn't disappoint. It's built around the three stand-up routines which made up his post-herring comeback after a difficult period (fat, bitter, increasingly surreal) in the early 2000s. There are bits of biography and analyses of stand-up comedy to explain each set and copious footnotes throughout the verbatim transcripts. I loved all this. He's always intelligent, always passionate and always funny.
The high point is the middle set '90s Comedian from 2006. He sets up the background before the transcript - the death threats and threat of prosecution for blasphemy over Jerry Springer the Opera; his moment of epiphany on watching the documentary The Aristocrats, about a secret joke told between American comedians which has become an exercise in obscenity; and his interest in sacred clowns from medieval France and the Hopi people of the South Westerern USA. It culminates during the act in an unpleasant and unforgettable encounter with Jesus in his mum's toilet. Stewart Lee's mum. Not Mary.
The whole book's really an investigation into stand-up comedy itself. Cheap laughs versus hard won respect, saying the unsayable versus just being a dick, political correctness gone mad gone mad and the politics of plagiarism. It's also interesting to learn Lee started his trick of losing an audience just to try and win it back ages ago, just to stop himself getting bored. I liked this quote, from one of his many footnotes "...Within a few years these 'jokes'...will have been entirely purged from my work in favour, exclusively, of grinding repetition, embarrassing silences and passive-aggressive monotony." I wouldn't have it any other way.
Right, think I've fixed the comments problems, so the hordes need no longer batter at the drawbridge. Still half finished a big bunch of books, but the next looks like it's going to be Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. That Mieville's so hot right now.