My favourite standup is still Stewart Lee. He’s the best practitioner of the craft. Having watched him for almost three decades, I really appreciate how he keeps challenging himself. But he’s not bang bang bang with the jokes, if that’s what you’re expecting from a comedian.
Watching Stewart Lee is something like watching a chef pull noodles in front of you: they seem long enough and ready, to your eye, but then he spins them, pulls them together, pulls them out again and again and again before putting them in the boiling water. Then, suddenly, you’re watching him chop ingredients so fast and not even sure what he mixed in when.
But those ingredients are in the wok and you’re dazzled by the flames and the aroma jumps at your face. That’s when you start salivating. Your parasympathetic nervous system knows what’s going to happen but your brain is staying in the moment, lest it get distracted and lose this feeling.
To be honest, you’ve entirely forgotten about the magic he weaved with the noodles just moments before, until he pulls them out of the water, bangs the strainer and you see them jump a little before they’re also in the wok.
A few seconds later, it’s all in front of you in a bowl. The smell hits you, you stick your chopsticks in, bring the noodles to your mouth and that’s when it all comes together for you; appreciating what he’s done but not really understanding how anyone could have done all of that right before your eyes without you preëmpting the outcome.