Lee & Herring Press
SIMON SMITH reports. Reading Chronicle - 20 March 1998How did the creators of Fist of Fun come to be in charge of a slice of Sunday lunch- time viewing? It's nothing short of sacrilege
A One-eyed crow who explains current affairs to the under-fives and the poorly-animated adventures of a gang of human vital organs - something strange is happening to Sunday television. And bizarrely Middle England is far from outraged.
The hotlines have not been buzzing with complaints. Questions aren't being asked in the House.
"Without wanting to sound to paranoid about it," says rising daytime star Stewart Lee,
"I think there is a certain group of people who deliberately watch programmes like Fist of Fun to look for something to complain about.
They haven't found us yet because they just aren't expecting that kind of thing on a Sunday lunchtime."
How exactly did the duo who once urged viewers to go on a Sunday morning bender grabbing as much free Communion wine as possible come to be in charge of a slice of Sabbath viewing?
Self-confessed shoplifter Richard Herring admits: "It may seem odd but that's only because there is a history of so much rubbish on daytime television."
Stewart says: "We do a lot about religion on the show but it's not deliberately offensive. It's based on reality and the kinds of arguments everyone has about the big issues. Some of the things The Unusual Priest (a priest who is, well, unusual) says for example are taken straight from the Bible."
Presumably not the recent line "Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims. You are wrong and I am right. Come join me."
This Morning With Richard Not Judy sees Lee and Herring entering the 'knowing' spoof-tastic arena built by the likes of The Day Today and Alan Partridge. It's hardly bandwagon jumping. The pair wrote The Day Today's radio precursor On The Hour with the Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris and Patrick Marber team and have a long-standing partnership with Friday Night Armistice's Peter 'Pot Noodle advert' Baynham.
And, like arch-ironist Patrick Marber, Rich and Stew have both been making waves in the world of 'real' writing.
Rich's first play, Punk's Not Dead, is being developed for a Broadway run, his new play Excavating Rita is to be made into a 90-minute TV movie and he is working on a sitcom which claims to be called Sex Among the Stalagmites. He is also the proud holder of the 1995 Kings of Wessex Ex-Pupil Of The Year Award and has won a Gamesmaster Golden Joystick for his skill at video games.
Stewart meanwhile has written a film script titled Saturated, was script editor for Channel Four's Harry Hill show and promotes his pet obsessions of lo-fi country rock and obscure noise bands as rock critic for The Sunday Times. "We've always done our own things," says Stewart, "and it's what keeps us working together this long. It's not like Little and Large. Imagine Syd Little touring on his own.
He'd stand there for 15 minutes and then say 'that's right Eddie.' And he'd have to finish the songs, It'd be worth seeing though."
Speaking of touring, the Richard Not Judy show hits the road next month for a stint which takes in Newbury, Reading and Oxford. "We'll not notice though," says Stew, "because all towns look the same. Except Reading. And Newbury." Last time the duo came to Berkshire, Fist of Fun was at the height of its popularity riding on the join-in-with-the-chorus of Vic and Bob and The Fast Show. Now Rich and Stew are trying to get away from the kind of live show which is just an excuse to join in with a catchphrase often seen on student Union T-shirts. "I didn't see the Fast Show live thing," says Stew, "but it must have been an almost religious experience. It probably meant a lot to people but it's not the kind of thing we are doing. "We've been working in Adelaide where none of the crowd had seen the TV show, but it still worked."
The new tour will stick roughly to the This Morning... format but with Lee and Herring's strange 2am pub arguments going on for, ooh, 20 minutes, instead of four.
It's part of the Lee and Herring act which worked best in Fist of Fun and is still the highlight in the new show. "Yes, we do it in real life. Doesn't everyone?" says Stew. "Rich will come up with some totally ridiculous argument and end up having to defend himself to the end. It's that situation where it gets to 4am and you find yourself saying 'yes, I do believe aliens have invaded and taken over the world.' We've all been there."
This Morning with Richard Not Judy comes to Newbury Corn Exchange (01635 522733) on Monday, April 20, Oxford Playhouse (01865 789600) on Wednesday, May 27 and Reading Hexagon (0118 960 6060) on Saturday, May 30.
This Morning With Richard Not Judy is on BBC 2 at 12.15pm each Sunday.