Imagine a sold-out show without a single person in the audience. To be famous enough for ticket touts to buy your seats, but not so famous that people will pay six times the asking price to sit it them – that's Stewart Lee's dream.
Unfortunately for Lee, virtually all the sold-out seats were filled last night. And so he found himself having to explain why his jokes were funny and chastise his fans for bringing friends who clearly weren't up to the intellectual task of enjoying his set. Unbelievable.
Of course, those familiar with Lee know that this derision and division of the audience is characteristic of his stage persona – a character he self-mockingly admits is based largely on himself. And last night he really went for it, repeatedly meandering off his main theme of narcissism and the fragmented self in the digital era in order to vent his disappointment in us.
Or did he? Lee is so artful, regularly breaking the fourth wall and even managing to somehow find a fifth, that you're never sure how much improv is truly spontaneous. All you do know is that it's definitely funny.
Along the way, he also delivers some straight-up, side-splitting routines. He bemoans the youth of today (read: anyone under 40) for the fact they don't know the value of anything because everything is so readily available; even S&M.
"Let's get under the duvet where it's warm and then you can harm me," says Lee's yogurt-tube drinking, Japanese-cat-satchel toting 37 year-old. It's not like it was in the old days; do you have any idea of the sacrifices our grandparents had to make back in the '30s just to get hold of a simple "potato-sack sex mask"?
Despite all his double-sided takedowns though, Lee clearly thinks highly of his audiences. He leaves his overarching message about the individual's place in modern society, and in particular the value of the 'content provider's' contribution, decidedly implicit.
Content Provider enacts Lee's two-sided triangle approach on a macro scale. He gives the audience the set up and lets them draw the third side – whether that's a punch line or simply a punch in the gut about the inward-looking self.