Nothing has had a bigger influence on my own sense of humour as the work of Stewart Lee and Richard Herring has. I am, to this day, a massive fan of near enough everything they’ve done. I’ve seen both of them live numerous times (though never together – one day! One day!) and will do so again whenever I next get the chance.
I came to them fairly late in their early career (if that makes sense?) as I was never aware of their radio stuff. Obviously, since the invention of the World Wide Web, I’ve caught up with all that; Lee & Herring, Nimrod, FoF… And I missed Fist Of Fun when it transferred to television. I suppose I was a little young to catch it on broadcast and it was so badly-regarded by the BBC that it was never likely to get a repeat broadcast.
I was, however, just the right age to see them tear the world apart on what must be the BBC’s most unusual scheduling decision This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Shown a little after midday on Sundays TMWRNJ was as “near-the-knuckle” as anything showed after the watershed. Whether it was childish songs (“one king, one king, ooooone king! one kind won king wanking!”) or callbacks to Fist Of Fun’s “gnat’s chuff” material, there was an awful lot that – when you scratched the surface – was probably inappropriate for broadcast on The Lord’s Day, just after Sunday Lunch.
Richard Herring’s immature and petulant rants were perfectly off-set by Stewart Lee’s rational, razor-sharp knock-downs and each and every supporting cast member left a phrase or concept that was begging to be performed in the playground. I still use a mysteriously knowing utterance of “Aaaaah!” when someone picks me up on something I’m not 100% read up on. I’m usually able to pull an egg pun from anything anyone says to me. I never leave home without my flask of weak lemon drink…
Yes, Lee & Herring are my idols. They’ve shaped my experience of comedy (“egg-sperience! Like an egg! Ha!”) like no other performer has. Sure, Rik and Ade kept me entertained but it’s Lee & Herring’s style from which I borrow most. Both are very well thought of within the comedy industry, but you’d be forgiven for never having heard of them. They walk the borders of mainstream comedy, courting neither publicity nor profit, like the Tyler Durdens of the British post-alternative scene.
I’ve been watching a lot of their older TV work on YouTube this afternoon with Aimee and I’ve laughed and laughed, even though I’ve seen and heard everything they’ve ever done a million times over. And if not a million then at least literally hundreds. I have so much to thank them for. They are geniuses! And I don’t throw that word around unless I mean it.
Do all you can to find their stuff online and get yourself some aching ribs, is my advice. And do it now!