Friday, 22 April 2016

Radio Review: 22 April

The comedian Stewart Lee riffed amusingly on jazz

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176Since it is a television programme, I haven’t been able to mention the latest series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on BBC2, which has been required viewing as ever. Anyone who can get several minutes of breathless laughter out of me just by miming Rod Liddle eating a dry poppadom must be very funny indeed.

Lee is also a massive music fan and perceptive critic, so it was good to hear him turn up on Radio 3’s Late Junction talking to Max Reinhardt and compiling his ‘mix tape’. Reinhardt questioned Lee about his assertion that ‘90 per cent of jazz is awful’. Lee said he had ‘shelves and shelves of jazz’ but stood by the ratio, preferring ‘the stuff that you can’t dance to’. Listening to Radio 3 as a teenager had helped alert him to the 10 per cent. Before that, he’d thought it was ‘all George Benson and slap bass’.

Reinhardt mentioned Lee’s dabblings as a musical performer, working with the free jazz improviser Steve Beresford as the narrator on performances of John Cage’s Indeterminacy. Lee also discussed the relationship between jazz and comedy, noting similarities between stating a theme, meandering away from it and eventually returning to it, hopefully without losing the audience’s trust and interest.

As a comedian, Lee has made appearing to alienate large sections of his audience part of the act. On screen, he works to at least three audiences – the knowing punters in the room, despised TV executives who might cancel the show and the bovine, unsophisticated punters at home – playing them off against each other. And yet, he always gets them back.

All good stuff, but I have just one problem. When did ‘mix tape’ become currency? It’s an Americanism. In the days of the cassette, didn’t we just make tapes?

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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