Chat between me and Stew in the Scotsman
Does abscence make the heart grow fonder?
The scene: Rick’s Bar, Frederick Street. The cast: Richard Herring, comedian and writer currently being heroic in his stand up show The Twelve Tasks of Hercules Terrace. Stewart Lee, comedian, author and co-writer of the award-winning Jerry Springer the Opera. Lee and Herring worked for many years as a double act, but are both on the Fringe this year with solo shows.
Richard Herring: Did you know that there’s a ginger hair award for comedy this year?
Stewart Lee: So you just have to have ginger hair? So that’s Owen O’Neill, Sarah Kendall ...
RH: Andy Zaltzman is up for it. It’s funny that a political satirist is winning an award for having ginger hair.
I can’t believe that this is our 17th year here, I’ve been feeling really old this year.
SL: At the Avalon Party last night all the menus said "Avalon 15 Years in Edinburgh" so I crossed them out and put "Stewart Lee 17 Years in Edinburgh" just so they know that 15 years is nothing. I remember looking at Arthur Smith and Andrew Daly about 15 years ago thinking that it would be really nice to do the Fringe for fun like them and now 15 years later we’re in that position.
RH: The nice thing is that we’re not out there to try and get on telly anymore. We’ve done that and failed. They won’t have us back. We’re just doing it for its own sake.
SL: What have you seen this year that’s made you want to raise your game?
RH: Only the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. I think that the little girl is like Janette Krankie, she’s really a 40-year-old man. She’s too funny and clever to be that young.
SL: Do you think she’ll be embarrassed by it when she’s 13? You should go and see Will Hodgson, he talks about being a skinhead from Chippenham. You should see it, it’s a really West Country thing.
RH: I was a skinhead for a while but it was for a play, I wasn’t doing it to beat up people, I was too scared.
SL: I’ve seen 36 shows.
RH: You’re just saying that to show off. I’ve seen five shows and hated every minute of them. You can’t possibly enjoy it. People always assume that we’re going to be rivals. We’re not competing against each other, we feel quite pleased when the other person wins something. It also vindicates the fact that we were quite good ten years ago when no-one really noticed it.
SL: People who were listening to us 15 years ago on the radio are still coming to see us. We’re not inaccessible.
RH: They’ve stayed very loyal to us. I find it amazing when 18-year-olds say, "I used to love you on the telly," and it’s five years since we’ve been on the telly. It was such an accident that that show [This Morning With Richard Not Judy] was allowed to go out on a Sunday morning. To see people mocking Christianity ... For my new show I went out on 50 dates on 50 consecutive nights and got drunk every single night so I’d wake up hung over every morning at about seven o’clock and watch kids’ TV. You’re in this really weird place, just coming down and really confused, and Balamory and Big Cook Little Cook become the most fascinating and amazing surreal things. I thought I was going insane, I kept singing the theme song to Big Cook Little Cook.
SL: I don’t know that one.
RH: Well you have to be up at 7:30 and if you’re not hung over it would be rubbish, it’s the same every day.
SL: My girlfriend’s sister was thrilled to meet the guy who plays the laird in Balamory.
RH: I’d like to meet the original Josie Jump, they’ve changed her for another actress who isn’t as good.
SL: There’s more ethnic minorities in Balamory than there are in the whole of Scotland.
RH: How are you doing in the Underbelly?
SL: It’s fun being in the building, it’s like an adventure trying to find your way around it. It’s a bit dangerous.
RH: And it smells.
SL: I like the smell.
RH: It’s like your bedroom. Sewage.
SL: What are you doing when this is over?
RH: I’m going back to London to write my new radio series. You?
SL: Richard Thomas and I have written the words for an opera about stand-up comedians and the words are being translated into German. It’ll be performed in January in Hanover and there is no chance of it coming to Britain.
[At this point, someone close by receives a text message with the newly released Perrier nominations]
SL: Can you tell me who it is? I want to write them down.
RH: Chris Addison? I knew he’d get it, it always has to be someone in my flat.
• Richard Herring - The 12 Tasks of Hercules Terrace is at the Pod Deco until 29 August. Stewart Lee is also at the Smirnoff Underbelly until 29 August.