A really correct review of the Lee and Herring live video
review: A Gnat's Chuff is Literally as Tight as a Gnat's Chuff
by Frankingsteins | written on 03.06.05 at 16:48:06
» a very useful review
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It’s ‘Fist of Fun!’
I mean, it’s ‘Lee and Herring from “Fist of Fun” due to legal difficulties!’
Influenced by many but emulating no-one, Lee and Herring’s live performances were relaxed and enjoyable romps that were at best a fascinating and hilarious postmodernist exploration of the nature of ‘comedy,’ and at worst a load of rubbish about shagging flies and having wees, with some swearing thrown in.
There was always an erudite and solid belief behind every routine on the nationwide ‘Fist of Fun’ tours, as well as a friendly, improvisational atmosphere that this video, the only Lee and Herring material ever released by the BBC, fails spectacularly to express in its overlong running time.
THERE’S NO NEED TO BE SARCASTIC
This, Stewart Lee’s opening line addressing the riotous applause that he and Richard Herring earned thanks to being off of the telly on that BBC2 ‘Fist of Fun’ thing, demonstrates the relationship the duo had between their on-stage personas and their real-life human being selves. Stewart Lee off of TV’s ‘Fist of Fun’ and ‘This Morning With Richard Not Judy’ is a world-weary curmudgeon despite his youth, similar to a Shakespearean Iago, but one that’s very good in bed. He is forced to live in a world of intellectual inferiors who don’t understand his music or haircuts, but who do produce the alcohol and class-A drugs that he enjoys on a daily basis. The real Stewart Lee is grumpy and funny, and although his liver and lungs are clearly on the way to disrepair, he admits that the extent if his familiarity with drugs is ‘only the occasional puff on a funny cigarette, mum.’
Richard Herring off of TV’s ‘Fist of Fun’ and ‘This Morning With Richard Not Judy’ is a jolly, childish, virginal fat idiot who, despite his status as a comedian, fails to comprehend even the simplest of joke forms or the concept of simile. The real Richard Herring is not an idiot, and in fact lost his virginity ‘at the embarrassingly late age of nineteen.’
Stew and Rich are clearly a double-act with exaggerated and contrived differences, but it is their acknowledgement and, in this video, clear demonstration of these differences that makes them all the more honest and understandable as overeducated nineties comedians. Stew smokes; Rich is a good boy. Stew likes to attend sex parties and get drunk; Rich likes playing ‘Super Mario’ on his GameBoy. Stew is affected by gigantism; Rich is a wee dwarf, although this may have been a camera trick.
The routine grinds to a cracking halt when Stew informs Rich that he has to be the homosexual one, because he himself has ‘baggsied being heterosexual.’ This often self-indulgent and completely trivial nostalgia of childhood idioms and beliefs beats any lazy reminiscing routine of Peter Kay reminding the audience about the sweets and red fizzy pop sold in corner shops.
‘With loads of stuff that wasn’t even in the TV series!’ boasts the video cover. Although their present-day solo stand up is much more spontaneous, learned and evolutionary, Lee and Herring were always the first to admit that they recycled material between shows and between mediums. Although some classic crowd-pleasers such as ‘the moon on a stick’ and the False Rod Hull would not enter their canon until the second series in 1996, this video still contains many Lee and Herring ‘classics’: Rich having sex with a gnat, a joke which leads brilliantly to an explanation of how he has ‘misunderstood the art of simile’ (‘you’ve mistaken being like something, sharing similar traits, to actually being the thing that it is’), Stew’s hatred of Patrick Marber and Peter Baynham’s ‘pork slush puppies,’ those being frozen sausages whisked up and put in cold water. Nice.
The duo do add some new routines, although these do feel restricted from what could be excellent performances in a less orderly live show. Rich’s description of how he spent his weekend rescuing his Princess girlfriend from a big lizard is soon stopped by Stew when it becomes obvious that he has gotten his own life mixed up with the computer game ‘Super Mario Bros.’ (‘yes, you’re right, that’s what I’ve done. It’s really good though, it’s like you’re there’), although a less scripted observation of audience members who are trying to look like Stew and Rich deteriorates, completely ruining the attempted punchline that someone has tried to look like Rich by dressing up as ‘some dog’s muck.’
Perhaps tempting fate, Stewart Lee wags his finger at the camera lens imposing on their unusually restrictive live show, noting that, rather than being a successful release, the person at home watching this video ‘probably bought it in one of those bins in a video shop for 89p in 1998.’ As with any live video, ‘Lee and Herring Live’ is visually uninteresting, unless you have a thing for the young comedians and their smelly special guest, and it does become very samey after a while, especially in contrast to the colourful epilepsy of the previous television series. The ‘natural break’ Peter Baynham seems far more randomly placed between routines than he did previously, although his ‘unemployed 32-year-old stinking Balham virgin’ persona is as funny as always, and the attempts to bring hobby obsessive Simon Quinlank (played by multi-talented comedy actor Kevin Eldon) into the piece are a little too contrived, but it’s a funny and entertaining show all round.
Lee and Herring have both voiced their disappointment at the video many times, and bemoaned the lack of a proper video release of their forgotten TV shows. In their view, and that of many fans, the restrictions placed on them by the BBC for their night at London’s Cochrane Theatre – primarily those of including popular material in its original form and holding back from experimentation, crowd interaction and out-of-character discussions – makes this inaccurate and more stale as a result. Unlike brief moments in the ‘Fist of Fun’ TV show, and throughout the much more refined Sunday lunchtime live comedy masterpiece ‘This Morning With Richard Not Judy,’ the viewer gains no real insight or understanding into the people behind the performances; Rich’s limited improvisation merely consists of shooing away a camera on stage, while Stew feels the need to talk very slowly and monotonously in some of the slower pieces, before really hitting his stride in the unexpected seven minute deconstruction of a postcard showing two cats and a dog at a piano.
As was the case with many comedy video releases, the stars recorded some severely last-minute additions to bookend the tape. Now we’re all spoiled with hours of special features on DVDs, it seems strange that tagging a brief ‘making of’ or, in this case, one minute’s footage of Rich in an empty theatre telling a young girl what to say the camera while Stew lingers like a curmudgeon in the background, seemed like such a treat.
Maybe I just want the moon on a stick. Then I could stop being grumpy that a discontinued mediocre double-act were never given quite the credit they deserved.
Funny and original Too restrictive
Contributions from Peter Baynham and Kevin Eldon Stew's heart isn't really in it
Mid-90s nostalgia Lost in time