Lee & Herring Press
Interview with Rich & Stew conducted in 1996 by Tom and Ben Hutchings.
NaB: How did you team up with Peter and Kevin?
Interview filmed, transcript compiled, written and grabs taken by Ed Jagger.
Stew: I was doing a stand-up on the circuit one night, we used to do a radio show, that was about four years ago. In fact - have you got the CD or tape? You can have one. Weíve got one lying around. We used to do this radio series and the BBC placed us so badly that it was hard to get anyone to do voices for us. And one day I was doing the circuit gig with Kev [stand up gig] and heís been really broke most of his life. He was a Buddhist, you see. And I was just saying "Aw, itís terrible, we canít get anyone to come". Because the BBC used to send us around the country to record radio shows in places like Exeter and Newcastle as a gesture of their commitment to the regions.
So I was saying ďwe couldnít get anyone to comeĒ because they used to pay about £70. So he went ďOh, Iíd love to do it!Ē and he was really good at doing voices and it never occurred to me that heíd want to do it. So thatís when we first used him and then we found his ability to speak really quickly, which was a result of him being a Buddhist, because he chants for two hours a day, he chants these mantras. So he can speak really fast which is really useful for these mad characters we were writing. So it went from there.
RICH: And we got on well with him. We liked the stuff he was good at doing. We actually had a couple of parts like Simon Quinlank of other stuff, but other people have done one on the hour and we kept on writing stuff like that. I donít think either of us could have done it and he just really got to grips with that. When did we do that - on the second radio series, wasnít it?
NaB: Judging from the sit-com feature in the book it appears you resent the people who didnít believe in your abilities all those years ago when you werenít doing so well. How important do you think it is to have faith in yourself?
RICH: We were lucky. A lot of people did have faith in us and weíve got faith on each other. The good thing about working together is that thereís two of us. So if thereís something rubbish, and the other thinks itís rubbish, then thereís a good chance at...
Stew: Also if someone else was telling us it was rubbish, or I thought it was rubbish, the other would go "no, it's quite good". So thereís always someone there with a good idea.
RICH: Weíve been lucky, really. Weíve had to work hard and itís taken quite a long time but not as long as it has taken for a lot of people. There are people in TV, and everywhere, who have got their jobs not through comedic understanding, but by being good at something else.
Stew: And thereís lots of people now who used to think we were terrible as recently as a year ago and suddenly think weíre good when they see us play to 600 people and go down well. So you know they donít have faith in their own judgment. They wait to see what everyone else thinks and then go "Great, weíd love to put you on in the West End now...".
RICH: But itís a hard job.
NaB: Working in a team - does it make it difficult to make a show when thereís a huge difference in opinions?
RICH: No, because we do stuff on our own as well.
Stew: Half of what we do is on our own. But to be honest in both series on the TV there probably hasnít been anything neither of us didnít like. But there have been things that one of us started out thinking wasnít a good idea and then when you work on it together you can usually come up with a compromise.
RICH: Also if one person really likes something weíll do it and see how it works out.
NaB: Who makes you laugh?
Stew: Rich (laughs).
RICH: No, all sorts of people. Weíve got a fact sheet somewhere which weíll give to you, weíll print one up.
Stew: Itís got a list of who we like on it. But Harry Hill at the moment, Alan Parker, Urban Warrior, Father Ted, Frank Skinner.
NaB: What about Baddiel?
Stew: Well some people donít normally expect...
NaB: Heís not naturally funny.
Stew: No, heís not. But heís a very clever bloke and works hard at things. But with different projects he undertakes, he can normally manage to get something worthwhile out of them. I think as comedians the good thing Rob and Dave did was in John The Baptist capacity, if you know what we mean. Before becoming the Jesus that was us. I think they helped to break the mould of late 80ís PC alternative comedy. I donít think they replaced it with anything better, but I think they helped to change the mood a bit. I think they will be appreciated one day for that if nothing else.
RICH: I think David Baddiel is more of a David Frost of a character than a comedian, do you know what I mean? Heís a clever bloke and will go on to do interviewing kind of stuff, intellectuals. Heís written a novel and heís a nice bloke. I like Fantasy Football bit I prefer Frank, in a comedy sense.
NaB: How long does it take to record each show?
Stew: About two and a half hours.
RICH: But then weíve done about two weeks of filming outside. We donít go into the yard and dress up. Because we dress up as the driving instructor, weíve done that before hand...
Stew: ...and itís gets played in.
NaB: What are you favourite places in London - e.g. restaurants?
RICH: We both like south London, because thatís where we live. We both like Goblins in Balham.
Stew: which is a really good restaurant/wine bar where you can stay out really late if you know Dave who runs it. Booch is an Italian restaurant.
RICH: Thatís the best pizza in London there. If you want a good falafel thereís a really good place over there. Whatís it called?
RICH: Gabyís - we often have lunch there.
Stew: Thatís the best take-away in central London. Gabyís falafel shop. Also Pageís Star Trek Bar in Victoria which is open on Saturday nights. Itís a Star Trek theme pub which is quite a good laugh.
RICH: Wimbledon Dogs is good. Been there a couple of times. Nearly lost some money, though.
NaB: What future projects are you working on at the moment?
RICH: Iíve just written a sit-com pilot which was commissioned by Carlton and I might do it with someone else, because the bloke who commissioned it has moved on. Iím writing an Edinburgh show at the moment about two blokes going to see The Sex Pistols.
Stew: Iím doing a pilot for Channel 4 of a show called Clumeís House Youth Street, which is like a 30ís cabaret show with Kevin and a bloke called Roger Mann and some man who does Alan Parker, Urban Warrior and Sally Philips, who was in some of our TV stuff and some other people.
RICH: Weíre doing Edinburgh together and weíre doing a tour of which thereís details in this [the fact sheet].
Stew: Hopefully a third series of Fist Of Fun, but we donít know yet. Weíll wait and see. Weíd like to do another book as well.
NaB: Do you prefer working on TV or radio?
Stew: Theyíre different. Radio is quite good fun because you do it in a day and then itís out and gone and itís nice being able to play some records and stuff. But you canít have the fun you have on TV with people dressing up.
RICH: I think the TV stuff we do is better. But people enjoy the radio stuff more because of the immediacy and you get that on a live show as well - I donít think you get it on TV. Itís just ad-libing, immediacy, personality and stuff.
NaB: If another station such as Channel 4 showed interest in continuing Fist Of Fun, would you do it for them?
Stew: At the moment weíre on an option for the BBC for material we do together, we have to give them first refusal, that runs out in about March next year. Also at the moment the BBC own the name Fist Of Fun, although weíre trying to take them to court to get it back. So if we did get offered something by Channel 4, we could do a show called Fist Of Fun for them.
RICH: Weíd do it with Channel 4 if the BBC said they definitely didnít want to do it anymore. But Iíd rather do it with the BBC to be honest.
Stew: We could do something with Channel 4 and call it something like Lee and Herringís List Of Fun.
RICH: In a way Iíd think weíd get more coverage on Channel 4.
Stew: Also Channel 4 push their programmes a lot harder. Bizarrely enough, even though I think the BBC would make it better, I think Channel 4 would have more people in the company whoíd be prepared to promote it and back it. I think sometimes the BBC are a bit baffled by us: they donít really know what to do with it. They didnít make any trailers for the last series, for example, to promote it in any way. When thereís a new series on Channel 4 they put bill-board adverts out and everything. You are aware that people are going to watch it.
NaB: What was your university life like?
Stew: Really good fun.
RICH: It was really good, it was where we met.
Stew: We started doing stuff together and apart when other people left. We did such a lot of performing and writing when we were there that when we finished we both had quite a good idea of what we wanted to do. So we were 21 with some ideas already. Where most people start out and are still trying to sort themselves out. So we had a bit of a head start, really.
RICH: I donít think you appreciate how good it is compared to living in the real world. You have a lot of fun and get drunk every night. Itís good fun at that age - you can get drunk and still get up in the morning. Itís a social time as much as anything.
NaB: Going to your shows we can see most of your avid fans are quite young, so why do you think you appeal to a youth market?
Stew: Why do you think?
RICH: Youíre young (laughs).
NaB: Well, on the posters it says Cerebral Juvenilia, do you think that sums it up well?
RICH: Sort of. Bit I donít think that means young people like it, I think thatís why old people like it. Because itís being childish, which people like to be. I donít know - I think itís that young people are the first to like things.
Stew: Theyíre first to find out about it.
RICH: Because old people go ďOh no, I like Rowan AtkinsonĒ well fair enough, heís good, but they donít try new stuff out. But itís interesting 15 year-olds could be interested in anything either of us could say. But there you go.
NaB: Do you prefer the first set used in the TV series, or the second set?
Stew: With the first TV series the set had more of a Ďlookí to it. It was more kind of stylish in a way. But the second series was more practical. We could move about more easier, also it cost a lot less money which was good because they cut the budget between the first and second series by a third. So we didnít have the finance to do that set again. We had to make some compromises so we thought weíd have a simpler set and still try to do all the filming. So thatís why it happened. What did you prefer?
NaB: I preferred the first one, to be honest.
RICH: People like the first thing they see. In a way I did, but... I think it made it easier for Pete, I donít think Pete fitted as well into the second set.
NaB: Why does Peter keep his name where Kevin doesnít?
RICH: Because Kevinís playing characters where as Peter was... you listen to that tape... he sounds just like himself. So he started off as Peter Baynham coming to do this. Then we moved to tele we said youíd better call yourself Peter rather than Peter Baynham otherwise youíre not going to do anything else; that will be you. So heís called Peter on the TV show.
Stew: A bit like Rik Mayall was Rik Mayall the actor, but the character he played in The Young Ones was also called Rik. Because the Rik character was based on his stand-up act when he obviously used to go out as Rik Mayall but the Rik character was quite different to Rik Mayall. So thatís the answer, I guess.
NaB: Who were your childhood role models?
Stew: William Blake, Martin Luther - the founder of the Protestant church, Sir Thomas Moore, Spiderman, Mark Smith from The Fall and thatís it.
NaB: But youíre atheists, arenít you?
Stew: yeah, but you have to admire the courage of some of those people.
RICH: Thatís just him, not me, thatís not both of us.
Stew: What about you, Rich?
RICH: I liked Monty Python, I liked comedians, because I was always interested in comedy. So I really liked Michael Palin out of Monty Python. Iíd like to be him. I still would.
NaB: Do you take feedback from viewers and listeners into account?
Stew: Yeah, more so than critics. Weíve got this email address and get loads of letters and stuff, so yeah.
RICH: Yeah, you do and I think there are people who genuinely prefer the first set, but I think we were right to change it. And sometimes we get the opposite thing from loads of people, but I think if you get one comment a lot, then you listen to it. Itís good if people confirm your worries about something, then you go ďOh, all right, weíd better change thatĒ.
NaB: Did you have anything to do with the design of your web pages?
RICH: Not the design, but we write all the stuff. Which ones are you talking about?
NaB: The BBC ones.
RICH: Well, weíve got an address in here weíve got another one. The BBC never paste up our stuff, they kept on censoring stuff, they didnít lay it out very well and didnít put the stuff on we gave them. So in the end, some bloke emailed us and said ďThey're rubbish, can you send me some stuff?Ē and we said yeah, we will send you all the stuff the BBC didnít put up. So he set it up and the address is on here. So thatís much better.
NaB: Do you use the Internet yourself?
RICH: we mainly email, weíve got some new computers which are better than these ones, these arenít very good on the World Wide Web.
NaB: Who is the most famous person youíve ever met?
RICH: We were in the same room as Salman Rushdie the other day, whoís quite famous. Weíve met... how do you judge? We met French and Saunders at a gig we did the other day. Youíve met loads of pop stars, havenít you?
Stew: Yeah, I suppose so. I talked to Neil Diamond on the phone once for about half an hour.
NaB: Did you like presenting Top Of The Pops?
Stew: It was alright. Itíd have been nice if there had been more stuff we like on it.
RICH: It was good fun.
NaB: Like Ultimate Spinach? Iíve been reading the book far too much, obviously. Have you been following the football, Euro Ď96 at all?
NaB: Are you interested in sports or do you play any sports?
RICH: We donít play sports - look at us, no. Weíre not very interested in sport, either of us.
Stew: I hadnít really watched a football match since... Iíve forgotten but I used to watch it in 1990 and I hadnít watched one until last Saturday and I really loved it. Iíll probably watch the one tonight.
RICH: Yeah, weíll watch it tonight. No, but itís good when Englandís doing well, isnít it? Good feeling on the streets (laughs).
NaB: What are the usual contents of your pockets?
Stew: Keys, packet of fags, lighter.
RICH: Keys, filofax.
Stew: Tube ticket.
RICH: Barclay Card Life Insurance Policy, which I got for free. £1,000 if I die, you can have that.
Stew: Oh, thanks.
RICH: But Iíve got to die in the next year (laughs).
NaB: Can you describe Peter Baynham in 5 words?
Stew: The real Peter Baynham? Kind, talented, 32, small, Welsh.
RICH: Gonk faced, Welsh, Pot Noodle.
NaB: Do you like the other stuff he does like Friday Night Armistice?
RICH: I donít really like him on Friday Night Armistice, itís not my cup of tea and I think as himself heís less impressive than he is as the characters he plays. I quite like the Pot Noodle adverts and I quite like a lot of the characters he does.
NaB: Whoíd youíd most like to work with in the future?
RICH: Julia Sawalha. Because I fancy her, I want to have sex with her. Weíre about the right height, I might be able to persuade her. No, thereís a lot of people Iíd like to work with really. Weíre not into the big, meet famous people and work with famous people stuff because we have fun on our own, with our mates. So we tend to work with people who are at the same level as us. Stew, whoíd you like to most work with in the future?
Stew: You, Simon, who I will hopefully, if it happens.
RICH: We used to do stuff with Coogan, Iíd like to do more stuff with Steve Coogan.
NaB: Are you jealous of each other, in any way?
RICH: Iím jealous of Stew (laughs).
NaB: Richard, whatís the most Ďiní place in Somerset, apart from the Glastonbury Festival?
RICH: There really isnít anywhere thatís in Somerset. Cheddar Caves will be once my sit-com comes out. Iím not really there that much. I suppose Weston Super Mare, even though thatís in Avon.
Stew: Weston Super Mare isnít even in Avon (laughs).
NaB: Hereís an interesting question: Who is the girl on the posters and the opening sequence to Fist Of Fun?
RICH: That is interesting
Stew: Sheís the daughter of a friend of ours whoís an actress, called Lucy. We tried out stage school kids for the thing, but they were all shit, because they were all so self-conscious and bratty. Then we thought ďOh, ask Lucy to do it, sheís niceĒ.
NaB: Why put her there? Is it because thereís only men on the show, is it to balance it out at all?
Stew: Itís because Fist Of Fun is quite an aggressive name, so itís nice to have a gentle image.
RICH: I think getting a child to say Fist Of Fun was what it came down to, where thereís a slightly rude thing I wonít pollute your young minds with.