Genius Review: Harmony for Stewart Lee and Me

April 30, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews


GENIUS, BBC2, Friday 1st May 2009, 10.00pm Alert Me

I’ve heard whispers about this show for a while but have never found the precious 23.5 minutes to watch it.

I guess, after hearing the basic premise behind “Genius”, I merely dismissed it as a show that lifts it founding principles from The Simpsons episode where Homer wants to be Thomas Edison i.e., full of nonsensical creations like the make-up gun and the electronic hammer. In essence, I wasn’t wrong, but there is a childlike wonderment inherent in Genius that can’t be ignored if one takes the programme at face value.

Dave Gorman (or monkey-face pseudo-Librarian as I prefer to call him) invites one celebrity Genius to play Judge Judy and executioner, rating the contestants suggestions and pronouncing one champion brain. This week’s special guest is my feared and respected nemesis, Mr Stewart Lee. Fans of OTB will be aware of my long-standing (mostly one-sided) web-feud with Lee fans everywhere. But, my callous critics, today we will be united in laughter. Let it be known that on Genius, I found Stewart Lee’s patter to be remarkably hilarious. I think the chemistry between Lee and Gorman saw his arrogance melt away and through their jovial on-screen banter Mr Lee revealed himself to be an intelligent (if not fickle) man of the people.

Anton Zimmerman proposed a novel suggestion to the obesity epidemic – suggesting a system of drive-by delivery trucks, that don’t actually stop. Clearly the health benefits would be abundant, yet Lee dismissed Zimmerman as a “crypto fascist”, prejudiced against poorer families who have no choice but to shop at Kerry Katona’s second home, Iceland. Lee takes the proposition to it’s menacing extremes, musing on how far Anton will go to penalise the impoverished. I don’t think I have ever had more respect for a comedian (except for my not-so-secret crush, Simon Amstell). In contrast to Dave Gorman’s silliness (“Anton, you just want to laugh at fat people running!”) he opts for the more controversial, intellectual critique, which ultimately is going to polarise the viewers. On this occasion he won me over.

Lee is not afraid to be himself, change his mind, or offend. As soon as contestant Jill linked her idea of swim lanes to the Olympic benefits for Britain, Lee banishes her from the stage. “Oh come on,” he heckles the audience. “It’s going to be rubbish!”

In much the same vein as his “Comedy Vehicle” shows, Lee plays up to the grumpy old man role, but in equal measure he delivers a barrage of one-liners. When Dan Haythorn is baffled by the Genius conveyer belt and steps off at the wrong time, Lee quips, “He couldn’t even get a job as a piece of sushi!” By combining my two loves – tofu-covered, Japanese, ricey-bites and laughter, Lee is slowly worming his way into my good books.

Our internet beef is over; call Perez Hilton, this is sure to be an exclusive.

Sally McIlhone