8 Things You Didn’t Know About Stewart Lee


Stewart Lee is in an Incredible Hulk comic book

tumblr_ly3kthqJ6v1qcf6pso1_500You may not know it by his highbrow “thinking man’s” flavor of comedy, but Stewart Lee is a big comics fanboy. You can occasionally catch him in a Spiderman t-shirt or Batman sneakers. You’ll remember that in his show Standup Comedianhe challenges the audience to ask him any question about the Incredible Hulk. When comic illustrator Gary Frank found out that Lee was a fan, he drew him into two frames of issue #106. You can see him on the poster in the background.

In Stewart Lee’s excellent book  How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedianhe recounts the dramatic tale of attempting to show issue #106 to fellow comic nerd Jonathan Ross and Ross mistaking the gesture as a gift. Lee, too embarrassed to ask for it back, lost the only copy of the now out-of-print issue he had (though he did have the original art). Luckily, the story has a happy ending, as Ben Moor*, who appeared in Fist of Fungave Lee his copy.

*Actually, Ben Moor also did a show at the Edinburgh Fringe with Lee and Herring called The Waving of the Pigeons.


That thing in Alan Partridge? Yeah, that actually happened.


Although Lee and Herring joke that they deserve some credit for inventing Alan Partridge, since they worked on On the Hourwriting material for the new DJ character played by Steve Coogan, more of Lee and Herring are in Partridge than you would guess. In the episode To Kill a Mocking Alan (often referred to the “You’re a mentalist” episode), Partridge finds himself in an Alan Partridge shrine after inviting himself around to a fan’s house out of desperation. Peter Baynham (“who,” Lee writes, “eventually wrote the Borat movie, and then moved to Hollywood to grow his hair”) wrote this scene based on Lee’s recounting of the time he couldn’t get a hotel after a gig and was invited to a fan’s house to crash on the sofa. Lee explained that there were posters of himself on the walls, which made it creepy, but likely, there were posters of other comedians, too.


Don’t trust Stewart Lee with your orange juice

Working as Quality Control at an orange juice factory, Stewart Lee had to have someone open up a faulty orange juice machine, and they discovered it was full of maggots.

Another job Lee had was 18 months fact-checking a book by the Royal Horticultural Society. In Julian Hall’s book The Rough Guide to British Cult ComedyLee says, “I had to deliver my work to Anthony Huxley, son of Julian, nephew of Aldous, who would tell amazing stories about the people he had met. He was a delightful and inspiring man.”


Stewart Lee did an entire gig behind a curtain

This may not be an entirely new idea. Simon Munnery did his entire show Fylm without setting foot on stage, after all. But Lee’s decision to do his half hour set in Perth to a room of one thousand people from behind the curtain, with just his shoes poking out, was perhaps reckless. In How I Escaped My Certain FateLee muses on this particular show:

“What had caused it? The threat of prosecution for Jerry SpringerStarting stand-up again and loving it? Jumping off the Aukland Sky Tower? Seeing The AristocratsFilling a bedpan with my own blood? Wondering, if only for a night or so, about dying? Being far from home for so long? Or eating only potatoes for five months? Whatever, I was not quite myself.”


Stewart Lee’s favorite pants are Lee Stovepipe Jeans

In the same section of the book, Lee blames a bit of his new-found reckless confidence on his new trousers, which he’d gotten in Wellington in New Zealand. The pants were from Lee Jeans, called Stovepipe Jean. The brand didn’t make it beyond the region, so when Lee’s mum accidentally washed and “disintegrated” them, he wasn’t able to replace the pair. But for a time, these stretchy rubber-denim skinny Jeans made him look ridiculous, like a classic fool who didn’t know that he couldn’t pull off these sleek power-pop pants, which shifted the gravity of anything important words he had to say on stage to the realization that it was indeed a clown who was saying them.

This isn’t the only time Lee has been attached to a particular article of clothing on tour. At the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe, he had a long leather coat that he wore everywhere. In How I Escaped My Certain FateLee writes, “I was of no fixed abode at the time and I could sleep in or on the coat, wherever I ended up, and keep pants and deodorant in the massive pockets.” As a result, the Guardian Photoshopped Lee’s head onto a Matrix photo. Har-har.


Stewart Lee did a radio program on Pueblo clowns

You might not expect British comic Stewart Lee to have an interest in the American Southwest or its native tribes. He doesn’t talk about it a ton on stage. And yet, he did a radio program called White Face, Dark Heart where he was actually granted permission to witness the religious ceremony of Pueblo clowns in Taos, New Mexico. (You can listen to the radio show on Stew’s website.) Lee also wrote a novel called The Perfect Fool, which takes place in the American Southwest and in which one of the main characters is a retired Pueblo clown.


Stewart Lee can’t hear the voices of women

Okay, that’s an unfair statement. Stewart Lee has Hyperacusis, which causes certain frequencies to be missing, muddled, or painful. This is often related to Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, which Lee also has. His specialist said, “Some frequencies are gone. You may experience difficulty hearing the voices of women.” In How I Escaped My Certain FateLee writes, “If I were a difference kind of comedian, there would definitely be a routine in this unintentionally ambivalent sentence.”


Stewart Lee didn’t see Seinfeld until his second kid was on the way

Stewart Lee spent most of his life aware of the American sitcom Seinfeld but never actually watched it. He was skeptical of all the claims that it was the best sitcom ever. When his wife, Bridget Christie, was pregnant with their second child, they sat down and watched every episode. He realized that, yes, everyone was right, it probably was the greatest sitcom ever.


Sources: Book Shambles | How I Escaped My Certain Fate |  The Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy | RHLSTP

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