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Stand Up Spotlight: Stewart Lee

By @hmsbeefnuts

In my last Stand Up Spotlight blog, I highlighted Richard Herring, a comedian almost beyond compare. I say almost because of the gentleman I will be highlighting today, his former partner, and 41stBest Stand Up Ever Stewart Lee. Now if you read my last blog, you will be aware that Lee and Herring were a double act at their inception, and sometime around 1999, they went their separate ways in the comedy world. Sad news in a way, but also good, because now fans of the duo had twice as much material to delve into.

Outside of the world of comedy Stewart Lee is perhaps best known as one of the few men of the modern era that has been accused of blasphemy. This was al down to the Opera that he wrote with This Morning With Richard Not Judy alumni, Richard Thomas, Jerry Springer The Opera. I didn’t see this at the time, but have seen it subsequently, and to be honest, I’m not a fan, it’s funny, but I don’t really appreciate musical theatre, or opera, yeah I know, I’m so uncultured. Court battles and two years of stress must have taken their toll on Lee both financially and mentally, but luckily, being a comedian, shitty stuff often results in brilliant material.

I can’t really remember when I got back into Stewart Lee, but it must have been around the same time as I found Richard Herring again. They seemed like shinning beacons in a scene filled with boring samey comedians. I have seen Stew twice live, and both times, the gig has been absolutely fantastic. I quickly looked back at the shows I had missed; 90’s Comedian, Stand Up Comedian, and was firmly on board by the time The 41st Best Stand Up Ever and If You Would Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One, were touring. Lee has a style of comedy often reffered to as intelligent and knowing, and I would agree, he isn’t a joke machine, but he builds and crafts stories, often using repetition and slowly, you realise, you could be listening to the best joke ever. Take a look…

Certainly, Lee has not kept himself out of contraversy in the last few years, his joke about Top Gears Richard Hammond caused a bit of a fuss a few years back, but the routine is so good, the fuss was only caused by people not really understanding it. Check it out…

The comedians comedian, Stewart Lee was granted two series of his show Comedy Vehicle on BBC 2, with a third on the way. These half hour shows have been the highlight of comedy on TV in recent years. I urge everyone to watch some Stewart Lee, I appreciate he is probably not for everyone, but check out the videos and give him a try. Here he is with a routine on toilet books…

Stand Up Spotlight: Richard Herring

By @hmsbeefnuts

I’m a fan of comedy, or rather, I am a fan of certain comedies and comedians. There are a lot of bad comedians on the stand up scene in the UK. A lot of very poor comedians, in my opinion, fill an awful lot of stadium gigs. Comedians like Michael McIntyre, Pete Kay and Lee Evans earn millions of pounds a year selling out stadiums up and down the country and entertaining literally hundreds of thousands of people. But I don’t like them, sure they a chuckle worthy at times, but their comedy is mass market trash for the multitude. Now there is nothing wrong with that, it entertains a whole load of people, but it just isn’t for me. I like my comedy with a bit more of an edge than; ‘Garlic? Bread?’, or ‘everyone has got a draw in the kitchen with stuff in it’.

 

That kind of comedy isn’t big or clever, it does nothing except illicit a recognition chuckle; ‘yes! I have one of those!! Haha’. Boring, and samey, and not what I’m after. OK, so we know what I don’t like, but what do I actually like? Well here is the first blog, of two, so far, where I will put the spot light on my favourite stand up comedians. This week we shall look at the great Richard Herring, self proclaimed King of Edinburgh, Lord of the Podcast and one of my two favourite comedy type blokes. But why is he so good? Well I’m not entirely sure I will be able to fully illustrate how great Mr. Herring is, but I shall try my best. What? Don’t look at me like that, you know what you want? You want the moon on a stick. Hahaha, see what I did there? No? Well you should go away and watch some early Lee and Herring, then re-read that joke…. see, funny eh?

 

I first became aware of Richard Herring during secondary school. At the time I was watching stuff like The Day Today, and Brass Eye, and then one Friday Night, I sat down and watched Lee and Herring’s Fist of Fun. I instantly had a new favourite show. A stand up show with skits and sketches, Fist of Fun was incredibly fresh, and incredibly funny. It was the kind of show that we would all talk about in the playground on Monday morning, quoting the best lines and going over the best bits. It became priority viewing. I still use some of the phrases I picked up from Fist of Fun, including moon on a stick, and there were an amazing array of characters, including Simon Quinlank, master of all hobbies (including Vicar’s arse rubbing), and Rod Hull, an imposter to the beloved children’s entertainer, who loved jelly, played by the actor Kevin Elden. Check out one brilliant comedy moment below.

Fist of Fun ran for two series, and then stopped. The BBC however did an unbelievable thing. They commissioned a new Lee and Herring show, This Morning With Richard Not Judy (TMWRNJ) on a Sunday morning, in a slot usually reserved for religious programmes and cooking shows. TMWRNJ was even better than Fist of Fun, and in school we couldn’t believe the BBC were allowing Rich and Stew to do this sort of thing at 11.15am on a Sunday. Once again Stewart Lee was the grouchy cool one, with Herring acting like a naughty school child, and it worked perfectly. It was around this time I first saw live comedy, and thankfully it was Lee and Herring tour. Live comedy was new and exciting and felt almost dangerous. I have seen many gigs since, but this was an awesome first time out. TMWRNJ was treated poorly by the BBC, but it managed to last for two series before it all went quiet on the Lee and Herring front, at least my knowledge of it.

It was a few years later, I was now out of Uni and hadn’t really heard of anything that Herring, or Lee had done. Then one day I Googled Herring, and noticed he had a book, Talking Cock, based on one of his stand up shows. I bought it, read it and immediatley wanted more. Luckily for me Herring was constantly touring, he happened to be in a local theatre, I booked tickets and my first Herring experience in a while was Menage et Un. His stand up was intelligent, hilarious and actually meant something. Oh Fuck I’m 40 quickly followed, then The Head Master’s Son, Hitler Moustache and Christ On a Bike. I caught up on the shows I had missed, Some One Like Yoghurt and The 12 Tasks of Hercules Terrace. Herring’s stand up is often filthy, but always has a heart to it, always has a point. His try at reclaiming the Hitler Moustache for comedy was a show that was both hilarious and meaningful. When I and a group of friends saw it live we all left with a slightly changed opinion on voting, I highly recommend everyone watches the DVD, it is eye opening. Christ On A Bike is seemingly an attack on Christianity, and whilst it does poke fun, and Herring clearly likes to point out the ridiculous nature of organised religions, at it’s heart, it has interesting things to say about religion as a whole, and the ending may come as a surprise to some.

Richard Herring has also done a hell of a lot of free content, downloadable from here. As It Occurs To Me is well worth a listen, as are his Leicester Square and Edinbrugh podcasts, where he interviews fellow comedians. It is hard to pick between Herring and his former partner Stewart Lee as my favourite comedian, but as no one is forcing me to make such a decision, I will not. Stewart Lee will be the focus of my next Stand up Spotlight, so for more information on him, keep checking back. As for Richard Herring, I missed his latest show What Is Love Anyway, but will pick it up from GoFasterstripe.com  an excellent independent comedy website that has a treasure trove of brilliant comedy DVD’s including many from Richard Herring and Stewart Lee. I think the best way to illustrate the comedy of Richard Herring is to actually see some, so here we are, enjoy…

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