Guardian Review of Lyric TMRNJ gig
Lee and Herring
Lyric Hammersmith, London
4 out of 5
* Brian Logan
Tuesday November 18 2008 01.00 GMT
Stewart Lee and Richard Herring
"This may be the last time you see Lee and Herring perform together," says Richard Herring, hyping up this one-off reunion gig. I hope not: they're a connoisseurs' double act. Stewart Lee may contend that time has run out on the now well-fed duo because their appeal "was predicated on the contrast between a thin man and a fat man", but they have complementary qualities that survive the ravages of middle age - Herring's puerility to Lee's sophistication; Herring's puppyishness to Lee's cool - and they share a forensic skill at deconstructing comedy, even while ruthlessly mastering it.
Ironic then that, as Herring laments, they had less prime-time success than their contemporaries. (Armstrong and Miller's prominence particularly grates.)
This gig reassembles the team behind late-1990s BBC2 show This Morning with Richard Not Judy. Standup Trevor Lock pitches in a droll, rambling set, and Emma Kennedy performs kids' TV themes with her band Vaginal Tap. Lee and Herring giggle through several old sketches, updated clumsily. Herring can no longer claim, for example, to have gone three years without a serious relationship. It's 16 years now.
Both comics perform solo sets, too, which cast new light on the old material. It's curious to watch Lee parrot catchphrases such as "moon on a stick" from yesteryear after his earlier attack on the rudimentary mechanics of American standup. Herring's set is all extreme sex, so when he reprises TV routines about coupling with owls, it feels like too much of a filthy thing.
But some vintage skits still sparkle, and the pair's plan to phone Jonathan Ross and boast of having sex with his dead granddad ("let's get ourselves suspended back on to TV!") is hilariously desperate.
Here's hoping this joyful comeback is the first last-ever gig among many.