Stewart Lee's history of stand-up on TV

Thinking inside the box with the maverick comedian

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Iconoclast comedian Stewart Lee knows TV's delicate relationship with live comedy better than anyone. Ahead of his Comedy Central series showcasing leftfield comics he outlines the history of stand-up on television…

Picture credit: Steve Ullathorne.

‘Live at the Apollo’, ‘Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow’, ‘Stand Up for the Week’ (2008+, Open Mike Productions, BBC1, C4)

Michael McIntyre’s management’s production outfit dominate the stand-up TV spectrum with shows featuring a relatively narrow range of acts working vast crowds of laughing people and influential celebrities which convinces the viewer at home that they are being entertained. Tight six-minute sets with little to spook the horses, or with the consensus youth-danger  flavour of “Stand Up for the Week”’s ersatz controversialists, characterise these three ruthlessly efficient steamroller stand-up vehicles. They should be congratulated for reinvigorating the notion of funny people talking on TV for the new century, even as they kill live club comedy by luring in the alcopop crowd with their TV-induced expectations of post-produced bulletproof content.

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