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Cluub Zarathustra: British Comedy's Weirdest Secret

“I had no idea who he was,” says Marc Maron on WTF. “I had to do a cram course on him… I felt like an idiot because I don’t know much about British comedy.” He was referring to Stewart Lee: one of Britain’s most interesting and integral stand-ups, perhaps best known for his against-the-grain demeanour and deadpan delivery. In a later episode, Maron also meets Lee’s contemporary, Simon Munnery, described on the podcast, not unfairly, as “different”. For the duration of both interviews, Maron seems simultaneously baffled and delighted, like a baby coming to terms with a heron.

There’s a certain flavour of British comedy – perhaps epitomised by Munnery and Lee – that has never successfully exported to North America. Goodness knows we’ve tried. We’ve sent it to your comedy festivals. We’ve tried to get it on your telly. We’ve even had small victories by smuggling our writers into films like Borat and shows like Veep. But for all our efforts, the kind of comedy I’m talking about has never been taken to the American bosom, preferring to embrace, as you do, mechanical bulls and Toddlers in Tiaras instead. That’s what you like.

So what is this weird comedy? Well, we might call it ‘alternative’ if we’re being generous, but ‘alternative alternative’ would be more accurate: a secret comedy lineage of names like Richard Herring, Waen Shepherd, Dave Thompson, Tom Binns, and Sally Phillips. But it all started with Cluub Zarathustra. READ MORE