HE is one of the country's biggest comedians - packing out large theatres and celebrated for his popular TV shows and award-winning stage productions.

So when fans of Stewart Lee were told he would be performing a set in a small venue above an Oxford pub, many were left wondering whether it was all a joke.

Last night the comic treated a packed out Jericho Tavern to a short set in support of Birmingham rock band The Nightingales.

Lee is no stranger to the city. A former English student at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he is also patron of the Oxford Playhouse - performing multiple shows at the venue last year.

He told the crowd at the Walton Street pub: "You play the Jericho Tavern twice in your career: once on the way up..."

He said he had visited the venue on his second day in the city as a student, making a friend which he then spent two weeks trying to get rid of. He also mocked Jericho's 'hipster' reputation, joking that people living in the area had never stopped wearing 60's-style Jesus sandals since they were first in fashion.

The show was followed by a raucous set by The Nightingales, who enjoyed some fame in the early 80s, before breaking up in 1986. Frontman Robert Lloyd reformed the band in 2004.

In keeping with the 80s theme, Lee, who helped create the controversial Jerry Springer The Opera, admitted he would only be performing jokes from that decade - warning an audience member filming the performance not to put it on the internet in case viewers thought he had not written any new material.

His set followed a show by Oxford garage-rockers The Other Dramas the duo of Maria Ilett and Richie Wildsmith.

Maria said: "What a night. We had a great time. We love Stewart Lee - and he's actually a really lovely person to meet. I gave him our new CD and he wanted to pay for it."

Nightingales drummer Fliss Kitson tweeted after the show: "First day of tour - my phone fell down the toilet, big ol’ bruise on my arm, zip on my suitcase has broken, drivers glasses have snapped, but it was great! Thank you Oxford... you were tip top."