Pity the poor standup in Boris Johnson’s kleptocracy | Stewart Lee

How’s a comedian supposed to be keep pace with this ever more farcical government and its diktats?

Like a great sloppy spaff, the flying shit of the Queen’s speech has hit the fan of functioning democracy full in the face. More than two million of the electorate least likely to support Boris Johnson are to be robbed of their right to vote, while millions of the sort of true Brits who moved to Spain when the local shopping centre installed a Muslamic prayer room are to have theirs reinstated; key environmental protections are to be scrapped or diluted; legitimate protests can be closed down if they’re “too noisy”; cub scout groups that fail to invite the anti-feminist meat-man Jordan Peterson to address the boys are to be fined; even Tuesday’s belated announcement of a conversion therapy ban was, in fact, conditional on “consultations with the public”. What’s the point of consulting them? The British public would vote to make conversion therapy compulsory if the Conservatives spent millions on an 88% false Facebook campaign saying lesbians killed the fishing industry. On TV, a typically acquiescent BBC journalist, Chris Mason, nodded encouragingly as two genuinely distressed Hartlepool men blamed the Labour party for 12 years of Conservative policies. Job done! Monkeys beware!!

But how have we slid so swiftly from unstable democracy to proto-totalitarian kleptocracy? And is Angela Rayner, the Wookiee-in-waiting to Starmer’s would-be Han Solo, the answer to the woes of we the woke? Even to centralists like me, Starmer’s abandonment of Angela Rayner seemed odd. There are many reasons for Labour’s current woes. Angela Rayner isn’t one of them. Sacking Angela Rayner was like cutting off your leg to fix a blocked toilet. Reinstating Angela Rayner was like finding the toilet still blocked and then trying to unblock it with your severed leg. This sort of leg-toilet-based political analysis is what Robert Peston lacks.

A transcript of my standup “comedy” show, from 13 April 2018 in Southend-on-Sea, includes the following “routine”. “People voted to leave the EU for all sorts of different reasons – they did, don’t snigger down there. Not everyone that voted to leave the EU wanted to see Britain immediately descend into being an unaccountable single party state exploiting people’s worst prejudices to maintain power indefinitely. Some people just wanted bendy bananas. ‘Oh no, I only wanted bendy bananas and now there’s this chaotic inferno of hate.’ ‘Oh well, never mind, at least the bananas are all bendy again, aren’t they?’ Like they always fucking were.”

Since I stopped performing the “routine” I have learned with embarrassment that in 1994 the EU did recommend some premium graded bananas be free from “abnormal curvature”, though this advice was later withdrawn and is nothing like the supposed across-the-board bendy banana ban maliciously propagated by the shameless liar Boris Johnson when he was the Daily Telegraph’s official European reality distortion agent. The existence, however brief, of Commission Regulation (EC) No 2257/94 does slightly dent the impregnable hull of my banana “joke”, but I don’t think the Times is about to withdraw its 2018 decision that I am “the world’s greatest living standup comedian” any time soon!

In contrast, the section of the “routine” where I declare that Brexit will deliver “an unaccountable single party state exploiting people’s worst prejudices to maintain power indefinitely” was “funny” three years ago, I believe, because a) it played into managed perceptions of the character of the standup “comedian” Stewart Lee as a depressive champagne socialist and b) because its clearly pre-written complexity deliberately critiques the unspoken understanding that standup affects to be spontaneous and conversational. The “joke” delivers the required “humorous” content at the same time as flattering the audience’s innate knowledge of its form. The “joke” is “funny” on two levels, then, and on a third as well, because it includes a rhythmically and musically satisfying plosive obscenity, in this case the word “fucking”, at or near the end and swearing is innately amusing if deployed correctly.

But suddenly the idea that Britain should “descend into an unaccountable single party state exploiting people’s worst prejudices to maintain power indefinitely” sounds less like a set-up for a “punchline” and more like a genuine Tory manifesto commitment. Only two weeks ago in this very slot, I believe I opined that lying Boris Johnson’s wallpaper-funding farrago might be the trivial thread that unravels the knitted bra of his falsehoods generally. The gangster Al “Scarface” Capone was eventually taken down not for the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, but for tax evasion. Boris “Spaff face” Johnson might be undone not by tax-free phone-a-friend contracts and development handouts to his sofa surfer, but for initially supplementing the unnecessary redecoration of an already redecorated flat with funds from undisclosed donors, surely likely to seek favours at a later date. Well, that misplaced optimism lasted me and the other Luc Belaire Leninists of the Commentariat about a week.

The media comply with Boris Johnson’s lies; he ignores the judgments of government bodies designed to curtail malpractice; his under-the-radar internet campaigns direct-market false claims to socially profiled susceptibles. At least the law itself remains beyond his control. Crowdfunded, do-gooding lawyers could surely whack Boris Johnson as soundly as Jolyon Maugham’s baseball bat thwacked that fox. But check the small print in the Queen’s speech! On page 145 “a Judicial Review Bill will protect the judiciary from being drawn into political questions”. I wonder what that means? The future? It’s Boris Johnson’s bare white buttocks going up and down on a human face – for ever. Terms and conditions apply. Boris Johnson’s buttocks may go up as well as down.

A 12-inch of the January No 1 hit single Comin’ Over Here by Asian Dub Foundation (feat Stewart Lee) is now available. Stewart Lee appears on the B-side of the Nightingales’ new seven-inch, Ten Bob Each Way. The acclaimed anti-rockumentary King Rocker streams on Now TV. Rescheduled 2022 dates of Stewart’s 2020 tour are now on sale, stewartlee.co.uk/live-dates


Stewart Lee

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Pity poor Britons playing Liz Truss’s lottery | Stewart Lee
The new prime minister’s cabinet is comprised of people who were born to win, but for the rest of us, life is just a gamble

Stewart Lee

11, Sep, 2022 @9:00 AM

Article image
Tory contempt for the arts means we face a second dark age | Stewart Lee
Proposed cuts to English lit courses are symptomatic of the Conservatives’ ignorance of culture and disregard for ordinary people’s access to it

Stewart Lee

03, Jul, 2022 @9:00 AM

Article image
Behold Boris Johnson's world-beating oration | Stewart Lee
Why should the prime minister bother explaining his many mistakes over Covid when he can mumble the hard questions away?

Stewart Lee

28, Mar, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Only Aamon the demon is fit to replace Jeremy Corbyn | Stewart Lee
During a brainstorming session to debate Labour’s new leader, dark forces loomed large

Stewart Lee

22, Dec, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Boris Johnson’s rogues play as dirty as the Russians | Stewart Lee
Why would the Tories care about Moscow’s manipulation of our media when they employ similar tactics?

Stewart Lee

10, Nov, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
My desperate bid to match Boris Johnson’s colossal lies | Stewart Lee
The foreign secretary is struggling to get the attention he once earned from lesser falsehoods

Stewart Lee

28, Jan, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
When Boris Johnson’s inner monster goes on the rampage | Stewart Lee
After a ham-fisted encounter with Sikh culture last week, it’s no surprise to learn that Boris Johnson’s favourite character is the Incredible Hulk

Stewart Lee

21, May, 2017 @8:59 AM

Article image
Boris Johnson’s roadmap is leading us in metaphorical circles | David Mitchell
The government’s way with words highlights a tussle between two lamentable aspects of our society

David Mitchell

23, May, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Ten days that turned Boris Johnson from election winner to political liability
Ceaseless scandals, not least the latest Jennifer Arcuri revelations, have got leadership rivals circling and Labour upbeat at last

Toby Helm and Michael Savage

14, Nov, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Europe burns while the Tories’ net zero plans are set to go up in smoke | Stewart Lee
Rishi Sunak needs to understand that investing in green initiatives is a lot cheaper than flying all his hedge fund manager mates to Mars

Stewart Lee

30, Jul, 2023 @9:00 AM