Stand-up Stewart Lee once said his comedy goes in and out of fashion and, if that is really the case, then the laconic comedian can certainly put 2009 down as one of his best years yet.

In the latter half of the 90s, Lee made a number of successful TV shows as one half of the double act Lee and Herring. Yet when the duo’s series, This Morning With Richard Not Judy, was cancelled in 1999, it marked the start of period during which Lee made only fleeting appearances on our screens.

He may have gained public attention in 2003 when he wrote the book for Jerry Springer: The Opera – a show that was targeted by a band of angry Christians – but in the main Lee was left to concentrate on coming up with a series of critically acclaimed stand-up shows.

The BBC was eventually to come calling again and, earlier in the year, Lee’s series Comedy Vehicle enjoyed a successful run on BBC2.

Keen to capitalise on this exposure, the 41-year-old comic has embarked on his biggest ever solo tour with his new show, If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One, arriving at Richmond Theatre on Sunday.

Was he worried about how his style – controversial, quiet and heavy on repetition – would translate to large venues?

“Initially, I was worried about what I do and how it was going to work because I have been performing to twice as many people as I was before,” he says.

“What I do is quiet and not really about unifying the audience. It is about everyone being confused. It has been absolutely fine, though.”

In his previous live show, 41st Best Stand-Up Ever, Lee included a routine that lambasted stand-up comedians who rely on mundane observational material.

His desire to avoid falling into a similar trap has proved the inspiration for If You Prefer A Milder Comedian..., in which he vents spleen on numerous targets including Top Gear and Scottish comic Frankie Boyle.

“In April, I went into a branch of Café Nero and I had this weird thing when they wouldn’t accept my loyalty card,” he explains.

“So I started writing a routine about being turned down in a coffee shop. It seemed like something a Jack Dee or a Michael McIntyre would do and, at about that time, I read an interview with Frankie Boyle where he said no-one over 40 should do stand-up as you have no anger left.

“I had written this bland thing so I thought about what did really annoy me and I have tried to find something that is true to the things that bother me that isn’t mainstream observational comedy.”

Lee’s slow and, at times, oblique stand-up may not be for everyone but he relishes any bad notices that come his way. As is his custom, the flyer for the current tour is adorned with a negative quote – “His tone is one of complete smug condescension” – pulled from a review in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury.

A strange marketing tactic, perhaps? “I seek out the bad quotes because it helps keep certain people out,” he says.

“The Sun said I was the worst stand-up in Britain and about as funny as bubonic plague and, if that means people who read The Sun don’t come to the show, then that is a good thing.”

He has also managed to alienate Robbie Williams in the past, who left one of his shows after 10 minutes –a fact Lee is proud of.

“Robbie left because he said I had a monotonous voice and should do relaxation tapes instead. I was pleased with that because I thought, if Robbie, who must be a d***, doesn’t like it, I must be doing something right.”

Lee is waiting to hear whether the BBC will commission a second series of Comedy Vehicle but says that, if it doesn’t come off, he has plenty more in the pipeline including another stand-up show and two theatre commissions.

Even if 2009 proves to be his high-point from a commercial point of view, comedy fans will be pleased to know we haven’t heard the last from this awkward and engaging stand-up.

Stewart Lee, Richmond Theatre, November 22, 7.30pm, £21, visit If You Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One will also be running at Leicester Square Theatre from December 7 to January 17, 2010