LEE & HERRING's FIST OF FUN - By Radio Haha
Radio 1 1993 (six programmes, of which only five were repeated)
Following hard on the heels of Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee relocated to Radio 1 for this series of half-hour shows, which marked the next stage in the evolution of their unique presentational style.
The series (like most of the second series of Lionel Nimrod) was recorded at various university venues before a student audience, and consisted of a mixture of sketches, topical gags (as opposed to ‘satire’, which the duo had, after their experiences writing for Week Ending, entirely disavowed) and their trademark character-based humour, which made its presence felt strongly in this and all their subsequent projects.
The move away from Radio 4 led to a change in style, with sharper and more youth-oriented material: this series probably had a harder edge than either Nimrod, which preceded it, or any of the duo’s subsequent radio and TV shows.
The material linking the sketches darted between deliberately crass, overbearing one-liners and drawn-out, highly intellectual musings — as exemplified by the celebrated “gnat’s chuff” joke (first broadcast in this series), which began with a throwaway reference to attempting copulation with insects and ended with an over-scrupulous quibble on “misunderstanding the art of simile”.
As in Nimrod, Rich and Stew were joined for the sketches by two other actors each week, although the varying location made for a more fluid line-up: Rebecca Front, a Nimrod regular, appeared more often than not, and there were appearances from Ronnie Ancona, Alistair McGowan, Jo Unwin, Kevin Eldon and John Thompson, all of whom would appear — with greater or lesser regularity — in later Lee and Herring projects.
Also appearing regularly for the first time was Peter Baynham (who had made a very brief, uncredited contribution to Nimrod) in the role of an enthusiastic but tragic bedsit-dwelling ‘lifestyle adviser’ called… Peter Baynham.
The situation is rather confusing here in that Baynham (the comedian) created the character himself and wrote all his own material, but allowed the character to become an integral part of the Lee and Herring universe and (barring some live appearances) did not use it elsewhere.
Lee and Herring’s Fist Of Fun allowed the central double-act to get away from the restrictions of a fixed theme, as imposed by Nimrod, but apparently they were dissatisfied with their reliance on one-liners and the need to continually gain audience reaction (Lee, in particular, has spoken of the tedium involved in “pushing the buttons”). Their next show for Radio 1, entitled simply Lee and Herring, was different again in style, with engagingly daft crosstalk a much larger component.
Before long, a BBC2 television series emerged, which took the title Fist Of Fun (the slight naming differences were deliberately engineered to distinguish the various productions): it resembled the radio Fist Of Fun in terms of style, although it also introduced new elements and used material first heard in each of Lee and Herring’s past radio series.