Stewart Lee Will Go On Hiatus After Spring Tour

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle BBC

I suppose it stands to reason that touring 49-year-old father of two Stewart Lee is considering slowing things down for a while, though this wouldn't be the first time in his long career. Back in 2000, the comedian took a sabbatical that ended up lasting four years, later citing creative fatigue as the reason on an episode of WTF. Audiences had stopped responding to his work in any sort of meaningful way during England’s comedy boom in the late 90's. He discovered he wasn’t a “night out” kind of act, which was in high demand at the time. Thanks to a handsome blurb from Ricky Gervais and an opera about Jerry Springer, Lee procured a fan base that has ushered him comfortably into universal regard since his return in 2004.

Interestingly enough, despite my consistently bleak disposition I tend to think meanly of sententious stand up routines on how miserable existence is. Saying nothing about how pervasive that approach has become in recent years, on the rare occasions I frequent live comedy I don’t do so in the hopes the performers will encourage my dejection. In fact it’s something like the opposite. I can appreciate a well crafted, candid and vulnerable performance; there is certainly a plethora of comics that excel in this way, but on balance I don’t really like to get a peek behind the curtain. I’ve always prefered weird over honest, singularity over relatable. Lee has always embodied these qualities. I’m not really a comedy guy. I don’t imbibe a whole lot of records, or watch a ton of specials but the medium is so in vogue at the present I have the misfortune of being generally aware of the esteemed up and comers and the guys from the past I’m suppose to cream over. In both camps I acknowledge the talent and my inability to come close to doing what they do and did, but very little of it resonates with me like Lee does. A sentiment I’ve been mulling over with the news that he has decided to take an indefinite hiatus.

The circumstances informing Lee’s retirement (provisionally at any rate) this time around are much more sanguine. Following a very successful tour, and a run of one of the most intelligent programs of recent memory in Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, Lee plans to take time to revel in domestication.

Lee’s trajectory has always roused me. He’s never been one to self aggrandize or implement intuition into the tales of his earlier failures. I enjoy making things but i acknowledge that I don’t make things well. The things I make are invariably bad and that may be true until the day I’m dead. Which sounds grim because it absolutely is. The point though is maintaining the wherewithal to stop and say to yourself “The thing I’m attempting is not working.” From there you could either put the effort into reforming your craft or refining it or you could just stop doing it entirely. But it's important to be honest with yourself.


We wish Stewart Lee a pleasant and brief retirement.



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