We did two more series of the radio Lee and Herring show, with a series of compilations coming the following year.
This was the year of the broadcast of the first TV series of Fist of Fun. Many happy memories of that.It isn't available of video anywhere (legally), and it's a shame there isn't a DVD because we recorded about another 3 or 4 shows worth of material. I am sure that has all ended up in a bin somewhere, which is a shame because I'd love to see it again.
In Edinburgh that year we did a double act show, I think in the big venue at the Pleasance, which we even filled a couple of times.
I also did another one man show with other people in it, called Richard Herring is All Man. Click here for the programme and here for the script. Sally Phillips was in it again, as was Tom Binns, who memorably turned up late for one show and someone had to do his lines from backstage. We just about got away with it. Click here to read the short story I wrote which was inspiration for this show. It was for a competition of some kind, but I didn't win.
We also recorded our live video at the Cochrane Theatre in London.As predicted this quickly appeared in bargain bins all over the country. We also wrote a Fist of Fun book, which we worked very hard on and which the BBC completely failed to market. It's a shame because it was very high quality for a cash in book. They also brought out a tape and CD of our radio show. Again it was quite good, but again didn't seem to get put in shops, until about the year 2000 when it was sold for a pound in bargain bookshops. There is no other Lee and Herring merchandise, so don't ask!
I think I also did a pilot, this year (maybe last) for a radio show, about being a man called Richard Herring's Manhood. I did record some stuff because I remember meeting the National Conker Champion, but it was not made into a series. Here's a bit of the script of that pilot episode anyway.
We did a second series of Fist of Fun, but were forced to make changes (which Stew resisted more than me, but he was right to)We lost the messy studio and were put in gilded chairs. It wasn't really right and they gave us the series so late that it was a real rush to get the scripts done in time. There was some good things in it, most memorably the false Rod Hull and a giant moon on a stick, but I much preferred the feel of the first series. As so often happens with us, the controller of the channel changed and the new man in charge did not want to re-commission a show made by his predecessor. It looked as if it all might be over.
That Edinburgh we did another double act show. I also wrote my first play, called Punk's Not Dead,about a group of friends who meet up to go and see the Sex Pistols reunion show. I was in it, along with Ewan Bailey (who recently played a man hiring a prostitute on Eastenders), Paul Reynolds (from Press Gang), Paul Putner (Curious Orange) and Jason Freeman (Steve from TGP). It was directed by Jeremy Herrin who has directed most of my solo projects since then and who I partly employed because he nearly has the same name as me. You can read the script here. It was pretty well reviewed and received well by the public. Some reviewers claimed I had simply put chunks of my stand-up into the play, but as you have seen I no longer did stand-up. All the stuff was especially written for the play and if you are clever you will notice it all fits into the themes of the play. I think some theatre reviewers have a problem with plays being too funny, as if that's a bad thing.Cheeky Alan Supple who is mentioned in the play is named after an old flat-mate from college and went on to appear in TGP. He is based on a real-life bald comedian (not Harry Hill) who behaved atrociously to the crew of a show he was working on that year and got a friend of mine sacked.
I also met Nick Owen from morning telly and he expressed interest in taking part in a Sunday morning show I had dreamt up, based on This Morning with Richard, Not Judy. Here's the treatment. If it had gone ahead things could have been very different!
I think Stew and me also did a tour this year.
In late February me and Stew head for Adelaide in Australia to bring our unique brand of comedy to the colonies. The festival was quite badly organised and we were on quite early in the evening. Despite this we did OK and made some great friends (most notably Greg Fleet who would later appear as Dave-o in TGP) It was an amazing experience and a mixture of the sunshine, some unusual cakes and a trip to Uluru sent me a bit mad for a couple of months (but formed the basis of my later play, "Playing Hide and Seek With Jesus". Made some great friends from the UK circuit there too and I started to feel less ostracised from the stand-up comedy thing (most of my problems with it were imagined or came from paranoia anyway). I wanted to write a Auf Wiedersen, Pet style comedy drama about the experience, but so far it is still just a treatment.
In July Stew and me headed out to Montreal in Canadato front the Channel 5/Paramount show "Festival of Fun". I've found all the second drafts of the scripts for those, which can be seen here if you can be bothered. We did a few gigs out there too and were working about 16 hours a day. I found the whole experience disorientating and frightening. The American comics were very ambitious and I felt like that student back at the Edinburgh Festival in 88. I also had a big beard for my play and looked like a madman (and still was a bit) Also Stew was doing gigs on his own and being courted by the American networks, which was both exciting and strange.
I returned to Edinburgh to perform my new play Excavating Rita,another semi-autobiographical number, based on my time on archaeological gigs in the mid-eighties. I was in it, doing an unpleasant full frontal nude scene and the other actors were Paul "The Putt" Putner, Trevor Lock and Natalie Brandon who would later become Trevor and Natalie from TMWRNJ and Catherine Hood who'd been in the Oxford Revue all those years ago. It was directed by Dan Milne. You can read the script here. I think it's a really good and commercial play, where the fact that nothing much happens is the strength of it. It's about how people pass time as much as anything. Again I was incorrectly accused of stringing together stand up routines. Again I say that every conversation fits in with the themes of the play. The effect the full frontal nude scene has on an audience is hard to glean from a reading. I am glad that I did it. It was very liberating.
We also revived This Morning, now much more of a two hander with me and Stew.I think by this stage we knew that it was going to be made into a series. Trevor and Natalie assisted us for a fiver each a day and Richard Thomas played the music. We were writing it the day before we started and made most of it up. It was extraordinarily good fun and sold out every day. I think a ticket went for £75 in one auction! Les Dennis was in the audience one day and I said to him "Can you do a Mavis Riley impression?" and he said "No!" and I said, "That's right, you can't, can you?" He laughed along with everyone else. I really like Les.
I'm not sure what, if anything, I did for the rest of the year. Something probably. Maybe it'll come back to me! Probably some warm up gigs for TMWRNJ.
Oh yeah and I script-edited some stuff for Boothby Graffoe, but nothing came of it.
I appeared in two episodes of the Channel 5 show Jenny Eclair Squats and was drunk on both occasions.
We did the first series of TMWRNJ in February. Jo Unwin,Kevin Eldon, and Paul Putner joined the Edinburgh cast, with Charlie Hanson producing and Gareth Carrivick directing.
We also did a tour show of This Morning, and I think there's my diary from that up on the Lee and Herring website if you're that interested (See the "98 Tour Diary" section).
We were also commissioned by some American TV company to write a sit-com idea of ours called Hostages, about people being held hostage in a basement. They didn't decide to make it though.
We returned to Montreal in July for a second seriesof Festival of Fun. We did more gigs together, which went much better this time. I was a bit less mad and had no beard. I didn't stay til the end though as I had to get back to finish work on my new play Playing Hide and Seek with Jesus. This is my personal favourite of the plays I've done. You can read the script here.I wasn't in this one (except for a couple of performances that Paul Putner couldn't do it). The cast was Emma Kennedy, Matthew Pidgeon, Paul Putner, Selina Boyack, Amelia Curtis and Matt Wilkinson.
My guess is that I spent the autumn working on stuff for TMWRNJ II.
We did the second (and of course being us, second means final) series of This Morning.I think it was our finest work and we had really reached a place where the double act was really firing on all cylinders and was a double act in the true sense of the word. The public seemed to agree. Unfortunately the new controller of BBC 2, Jane Root, seemed less keen and the schedulers messed around with us and the repeat.
We didn't hear for sure that the show wasn't going to get recommissioned for a while, but I got a fairly good idea that it had been when I was introduced to Jane Root at a party in Edinburgh and she immediately turned her back on me without saying a word. Stew and me had been working together for over 12 years, and now it seemed to be over.
The BBC did offer to commission a pilot episode of Hostages, but we felt they were unlikely to make the series or give us the backing we felt we deserved so we politely declined.
That July I flew to Fiji with some actors to write my newplay "It's Not The End of the World" about Nostradamus's prediction that the world would end in July 1999. The trip was paid for by UK Play for whom we made a documentary about the experience. The actors who came to Fiji were Paul Putner, Selina Boyack and Ruth Gray, though only Ruth and me were going to be in the play, the other two parts had not been cast. In the end they were played by Rebecca Lacey from Casualty and Paul Bown from Watching.
For me this was the least successful play, though it is possibly the best written one. The script is here. We had fun doing it, but I just think it wasn't quite right somehow. Funnily enough I got more interest about this play than any other. There was to be a radio version, but they wanted it to be 45 minutes long and have no swearing in it. I tried to do it, but couldn't.
I had been working as a script editor for Al Murraywho was writing a sit-com for his pub landlord character. In the end it was decided it would be better if we wrote it together. We had completed the script and had been trying to sell it. In August, the day before Al won the Perrier, Sky decided they would like us to make 13 episodes. The day after Al won the Perrier everyone else came with offers. The BBC asked why they hadn't been offered the script. The fact was they had had it for about 10 months.