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Highs and lows of work in progress

Stewart Lee returned to Belfast last night, and the city's "liberals and Guardian readers" – Lee's words – had massed to see him.

"If there are any disputes outside tonight, there'll be no one to smooth it over," he quipped.

Lee knows his audience, sometimes a little too well.

In the first half, jokes at the expense of obvious targets such as Margaret Thatcher, Jim Davidson and Michael McIntyre felt lazy and pandering.

It certainly wasn't the masterful material you would hope, but things picked up after the interval, notably with a splendid skit on Ukip's fear of immigrants "coming over here...".

Bits like this married all the elements that make Lee great – the deft wordplay, the comically torturous repetition and a challenging central idea.

There was some locally-based humour, too, with Lee referring to Northern Ireland as a "culturally divided war zone" at one point, and referencing the Grand Opera House.

"Comedy used to be the new rock 'n' roll," he deadpanned.

"Now it's the new opera."

He also enjoyed some choice banter with the audience.

While Much A-Stew About Nothing doesn't hit the heights of Lee's previous work, by his own admission it's a work in progress.

And even Lee firing on half his cylinders is better than most other comics at their best.

ANDREW JOHNSTON

Belfast Telegraph

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