Coincidentally coming just over a week after seeing Stewart Lee, I got to see the other half of the 90’s double act and saw a very different act. Where Lee’s act is studiously intellectual and rigorously structured, Herring has a more ‘traditional’ stand-up style, with a rat-a-tat delivery and more obvious jokes. There are points of similarity, of course; given that Lee’s book refers to how some of his mannerisms (such as addressing himself as if he were another person) are straight substitutions for Herring’s part in their double-act, it is clear that working together involves some influence, and it’s reasonable to suppose that it would flow both ways.
Some of the subject material and political standpoint is also similar – again not surprising for people who were friends before they were a double act – such as raging against tabloid journalism and right-wing bigotry. But Herring’s act is much more personal and autobiographical, with family and relationship stories forming the peg for this act. There is some philosophical musing and it’s clever; a maths joke about Ferrero Roche chocolates slyly slips in some serious maths and this is key to the act’s appeal for me – it wears its intellectualism lightly. There is a fairly loose structure, allowing Herring to range through anecdotes all around his theme, but always coming back to the central topic. It was certainly more structured and polished than his internet radio show, AIOTM – thankfully, since, while that was interesting, it was very haphazard.
It really is fun to watch Lee and Herring’s separate acts so closely together, as a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise (as well as simply being entertained and amused). Lee creates an exaggerated version of a sour intellectual pedant and carefully crafts a tight routine which undercuts that joke figure whilst maintaining an intellectual rigour; Herring produces the persona of a likeable pervert , more immediately and overtly running himself down, whilst also aiming to intellectually challenge his audience, albeit surreptitiously.
If I’d had some cash on me, I’d have got a signed copy of the ‘Fist of Fun’ DVD to look back at their early act for some more fun research, particularly as one sketch was directly referenced in this show. As it is, I’ll have to head on to gofasterstripe.com and buy online though, at £25 for six episodes (plus bonus material), it might have to wait until I have a bit more cash.