Times Review of Lyric TMWRNJ reunion
November 18, 2008
Lee & Herring at the Lyric Hammersmith, London W6
Stewart Lee and Richard Herring revived their double act on Sunday night for only the second time in ten years. It was a feisty, fond occasion for the faithful - at least one of whom, Herring gleaned in his opening routine, had trekked from Exeter for the show.
He'd be disappointed, Herring warned him, and maybe he was; the duo's gloriously sloppy half-hour set followed a bill of solo stand-up plus turns from other alumni of their BBC Two show This Morning With Richard Not Judy, so cruelly axed in 1999. Trevor Lock did some waffly stand-up; Emma Kennedy played Seventies TV themes with her girl band, Vaginal Tap, upstaged by a masked â€œcelebrity dance gimpâ€ (rumoured to be Mel Giedroyc).
Lee, 40, and Herring, 41, last performed as a duo last year, and this set was an even looser reinvention of the same old jousts. Silly, horny Herring threatened to ring Jonathan Ross and tell him he'd slept with his grandfather. Dubious Lee insisted that the double was no more. â€œIt was predicated on the conflict between a thin man and a fat one... Not two similarly overweight middle-aged men.â€
Watching them at work was like seeing two old jazzers playing off each other. They were quick and rude, familiar and opaque. Sadly, nobody told Paul Putner, reviving his character Curious Orange, that things were going to be this ragged. Dressed as Davros from Doctor Who, he was so focused and funny that he blew the cobwebs from the ceiling.
So why the reunion? They never said, but Lee did mention that he's back on BBC Two soon with his own series. And, good though Herring is, great though they were together, Lee's stand-up is about as good as it gets. His set here had verve, imagination, intelligence and poise. So the nostalgia bandwagon starts and stops here: Lee and Herring have moved on. â€œMy life is just like a Jack Dee sitcom,â€ Lee assured us. â€œIt's mediocre, middle-aged, and exactly copied off Curb Your Enthusiasm.â€ An indulgent but invigorating evening.