Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle is rather like Luther – it comes round every 2-3 years and is to the TV schedules what oxygen is to our bodies – an essential requirement.
Often, the programme is like a comedy masterclass, with this first new episode, showing how to segue between light-hearted and serious topics, the latter being the 2015 election, with a knowing look to camera. He also slammed lots of things like those who love panel shows, the BBC ticket unit and various TV personalities such as Graham Norton; and how James Corden watching Stewart Lee’s own programme is like a dog listening to classical music.
Is he a bitter man? Or just very clever with his self-depreciative humour? Due to his comedy style, is how he comes across, on the face of it, just part of the pretence? You will have to decide for yourself.
Throw in prostitutes and Orienteering with Napalm Death, and this really is a prime half-hour of television, and I’m so glad its come back to a 10pm slot, rather than being shunted to a post-Newsnight slot, long after people have gone to bed. Yes, it’s all available on the BBC iPlayer, but when you want to chat about it at work the next day, you want to have seen it the night before.
I’ve also enjoyed Mr Lee’s work when he regularly worked with the equally brilliant Richard Herring on BBC2’s Fist of Fun and the unsurpassable This Morning With Richard Not Judy.
Two elements of this series which return are the occasional, hilarious vignettes – which the first two series would see Lee appear opposite The Thick Of It creator’s Armando Iannucci, but since has featured Brass Eye and Jam creator Chris Morris (forever labelled as Christopher Morris), this first episode’s starting with Morris simply not being ready to begin, with Lee’s baffled expression staring back at him, hard.
And there’s also the unique end segments, which often get waffled over by continuity announcers that have plenty to say about nothing at all. Thankfully, this week’s was too loud for that to happen, even though the purposely silent closing credits – created that way by way of juxtaposition – didn’t escape the curse of the verbal effluence.
In this age of austerity, why can’t they be the ones to be culled? Everyone hates them.
Oh, and that final track was Napalm Death’s Pseudo Youth.
Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle Series 4 is not yet available to pre-order on DVD, but you can still buy Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3 on that format. The fourth series continues next Thursday on BBC2 at 10pm. If you missed it, you can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer, up until April 2nd. Also, click on the top-right image for the full-size version.
Episode 1 Score: 10/10
Director: Tim Kirkby
Producer: Richard Webb
Written and performed by Stewart Lee
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.