Lee & Herring Press
EDINBURGH REVIEW"Spank" - a monkey, apparently - kept a diary of his trip to the 1998 Edinburgh Festival.
This is what he made of the 28th August 1998.
I'm paying Richard Herring £19 to entertain me today, and the first nine pounds goes towards his play Playing Hide And Seek With Jesus.
It's become a tradition over the last couple of years that as well as doing his usual schtick with Stewart Lee (of which more later), Herring also writes a play for some of his pals to perform. Unlike previous years, he doesn't act in this one, but familiar faces such as Paul "Curious Orange" Putner make an appearance.
A neat little tale of thirtysomething college friends trying to make sense of their lives, it's distinguished by the way Herring makes a real effort to define the participants in the story as distinct characters, rather splitting a stand-up monologue arbitrarily between six people. There's some ferociously good observation at work here - during a rather tense reconciliation scene following a big argument, Putner's character suggests that they try to make the moment less tense by talking in Northern regional accents - and the jokes are pretty damn fine.
If I ever want to express extreme displeasure at something in the future, I suspect I'll be using the line "I'd rather rim Ann Widdecombe" from now on.......
Last event of the day is This Morning With Richard Not Judy, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring's touring version of their BBC2 Sunday lunchtime show. As with the TV version, it's heavily reliant on catchphrases and running jokes built up over the series and their earlier Fist Of Fun, and as the rest of Spank's pals haven't actually seen them before they end up fairly bemused by the whole experience.
They do work well as a double act, bouncing ideas and impromptu gags off each other effectively throughout the show, although all too often they fall back on their roles as Lee the rational intellectual and Herring the sex-obsessed dickhead. For me (although Lesley disagrees with me violently on this one), the only point where it rises above the norm is the extraordinarily dangerous encore where they reflect on the anniversary of Princess Diana's death.
Lee tries to understand the thought processes of the person who left an inflatable model of ET alongside the floral tributes (true story, apparently): Herring heckles him throughout the routine saying that some subjects are totally unsuitable for comedy, and then proceeds to tell his own story about how he drew a picture of an ejaculating penis in one of the books of condolence. It's an astonishing exercise in seeing how far you can push an audience before alienating them completely, and the only way they can get away with it is by assuming that the bulk of their audience don't particularly care about the woman.
The evidence would appear to indicate that the bulk of their audience don't. Arguments on the nature of audience alienation continue at the Filmhouse bar until the early hours of the morning.
Rich actually sent an email to the website that posted this diary entry. And here it is...
Richard Herring, Off The Telly, England, 13/05/1999
Just read your Edinburgh diary and was greatly amused by your friends' reactions to the Lee and Herring show. It was a weird experience for us as we seemed to get a very mixed audience, and didn't know whether to play it for fans or new punters. On the whole I think it was the least successful double act show we've done at the Festival. But glad you liked some of it. Pleased you liked the play too. Far from giving me £19, I left Edinburgh that year £10,000 lighter than when I started (it's expensive putting on a play) - the double act show nearly broke even.
Source - Spank-the-monkey.co.uk