There are certain things that, as a society, we have enough of. Few people can say that when perusing the shelves of their local Waterstones bookshop they’re looking for further volumes of Jordan’s extensive range of autobiographies. I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with the existing eighteen volumes. Quite the opposite. I think that one woman’s struggle to retain human emotions whilst physically bearing more and more obscure levels of physical resemblance to humans as a species is a riveting subject. I would argue, though, that the subject has now been covered in sufficient depth. Any insight, any humour, any entertainment to be drawn from this subject has surely been drawn by now.
The same could be said of Stewart Lee’s recent 3CD release. I’m a huge fan of Stewart Lee. So much so that the first draft of this review featured an introduction that would have had many readers scrolling to the top of the page to confirm that they hadn’t stumbled onto the Den of Greek* by accident. Such was the degree of man-on-man love.
But even from a comic as intelligent and funny as Stewart Lee, do we really need another anecdotal retelling of the last days Judas performed as a one-man-show/stand-up comedy hybrid? Isn’t this something that has already been done to death?
What Would Judas Do? is great fun. Those who are familiar with Lee’s stand-up will know what to expect here. He masterfully dissects his source material, mining laughs from areas that most comedians wouldn’t even think to look. I can’t imagine any other comedian coming up with such a brilliant pay-off based around the line “Judas, would you betray me with a kiss?”
Recent work from Stewart Lee has seen him experiment with audience participation. This extends beyond Frank Boyle-style ‘tell me what your job is so I can tell you that I hate you’ taunting. Here he seems genuinely interested in bringing his audience into the show, which makes it feel slightly unpredictable. Whilst an attempt to bribe them into participation with bags of nuts might seem odd, it does make sense in the context of the show.
The concept of the show not only illustrates Lee’s inventiveness, but also provides a good opportunity to showcase his particular style of comedy. Stewart Lee is funny in a very different way to someone like Tim Vine (not to take anything away from Tim Vine, who is brilliant in his own right). He gets his laughs at his own pace (it’s not just getting a laugh but how he gets it with Stewart Lee), and raises thought provoking points along the way.
The set consists of three discs, each with a recording of the show from a different night. This might seem excessive but actually works well for a couple of reasons. The first is that, thanks to the interaction with the audience, each show is at least a little different from the last. Given that the set is priced at £10, it’s about averagely priced for a stand-up comedy CD but it doesn’t grow stale with repeated listening thanks to these differences. The second reason it works for What Would Judas Do? is that Lee has a very deliberate style of delivery. Every word seems specifically placed and it’s interesting to hear him play with his performance during the set.
The show warrants a 5 star review. However, as noted on the Go Faster Stripe website, the recordings are not of a technically high standard. Whilst this should be taken into account, the problems are not such that they have any real negative impact over the show. You can hear the audience and there is some interference, but it’s not distracting and you can still hear everything that you are supposed to clearly.
*I’ve been contributing to Den of Geek for nearly 2 years. Over the course of those 2 years, I’ve been desperate to include the pun ‘Den of Greek’ but have been unable to place it in anything I’ve written. I’m pleased to have finally been able to include it.
What Would Judas Do? is available from www.gofasterstripe.com.
While you’re there, you can also find Stewart Lee’s best stand up DVD, ‘90s Comedian. It comes highly recommended.