In 1998, comedians Richard Herring and Stewart Lee returned to our screens with a new format - a Sunday morning current affairs and lighthearted chat show. This (like most Lee and Herring outings) was merely a cover for their usual brand of irreverent humour, repeated themes and surreal alternative comedy, based entirely around the interactions between the pair as prototyped on their previous TV series Fist of Fun, their radio shows, and their stand-up comedy tours.
The programme featured heavily on banter between Rich and Stu, interspersed with sketches which were in most cases episodic - the same themes and ideas were touched on every week, with jokes evolving and usually becoming more outrageous in further episodes. A lot of the material was revisited from earlier Lee and Herring sketches which were instantly recognisable to fans who followed their work. The title comes from the programme it lampoons, the popular daytime light affairs series This Morning with Richard and Judy. The presentation was in the style of the same programme, but the actual content strayed far from this format (which was only used so that the BBC would buy and produce the series).
Rich and Stu reprised their stand-up and radio show personas for TMWRNJ (as Rich affectionately called the show, much to Stu's chagrin). The slender, handsome, cooly cynical Stu was offset by fat, slobbish and puerile Rich, resulting in the classic comedy pairing of straight man and buffoon. Whilst Stu would launch a biting invective about the decline of society, Rich would gorge himself on the milk of various unlikely animals and hint at the illicit affairs he has experienced with them. "A gnat's chuff is literally as tight as a gnat's chuff...".
The programme was shown every Sunday on BBC 2, where it was broadcast live in front of a studio audience (except for the pre-recorded sketches, which made up a large proportion of the show). On Friday nights the previous Sunday's episode was repeated with some parts uncut (swearing in the sketches, for example), although in rare cases some sections were cut completely (usually blasphemous sketches which received a large number of complaints). Each episode was around 45 minutes in length, with no commercial breaks due to it being broadcast by the BBC, which is funded by the public rather than advertisers. Series 1 featured 8 episodes, and Series 2 had a longer run of 10 episodes.
Sketches & Repeated Themes
Rich's Opening Mistake
Each show would open with Rich quoting a catchphrase or lyric from an item of popular culture, insisting that the the quote does in fact apply to him, despite how ridiculous this would be. Stu is characteristically annoyed by this.
Stu: Hello, I’m Stewart Lee.
Rich: And I’m the man. Who’s the man? I’m the man. Who’s the man? I’m the man...
Stu: Wait a moment. Be quiet. Quieten down now. Are you the man?
Rich: Yes, I’m the man, who's the...
Stu: No. Listen to the question: Are you the man?
Rich: I’m one of the men.
Stu: One of the men?
Rich: Well, one of the male human beings.
Rich: You always spoil everything I do.
Pause for Thought for the Day
Kevin Eldon plays a decidedly odd priest character, delivering a daily scripture or pondering on life, in the style of the early morning appearances made by Radio 4 religious figures. Far from being pedestrian musings, his thoughts of the day tends to display the character's inner turmoil and descent into madness, and he is more often heard to decry all women as filthy devilish whores than to tell the traditional saccharine Sunday anecdote.
Histor and Pliny
A puppet sketch, based on the premise of a cheap Sky TV children's programme called Histor's Eye. Histor and Pliny are two pirate crows. Pliny is ignorant and obsessed with eggs and bird related puns, while Histor is ostensibly the more enlightened one. With Histor's ability to fly through time and space, he takes Pliny on a journey to answer the question of the day. The egg and bird puns are the main joke here, with Pliny's increasingly desperate attempts eventually driving Histor to commit murder. Histor is voiced by Rich, whilst Stu provides Pliny's voice - the straight man/buffoon roles are reversed here.
Histor: Let's fly off..
Pliny: Let's fly oeuf! Oeuf, which is French for egg! Ahahaaha!
Nostradamus and His Horse David Collins
Nostradamus (played by Emma Kennedy) appeared on the second series at the end of each episode to make outlandish predictions about world events that would happen during the week, whilst riding a cheap pantomime horse. These would always turn out to be incredibly wrong, but he would make excuses and suggest that he was talking in code (satirising the real-life proponents of Nostradamus who would validate his predictions through loose interpretation). Nostradamus was set to win a picket fence and luxury barbecue if his predictions were correct, but instead ended up being punished by Rich with a Chinese burn, exclaiming "It hurts! It hurts... but I like it". Towards the end of the series he has a love affair with Rich, mocking the fact that he is played by a girl.
Rich's illegitimate, scary citrus son, played by Paul Putner. Although intrinsically evil, he aspired to learn about life and humanity from his father. He was juiced to death at the end of series 1 and then later reformed, becoming more evil than ever. Towards the end of the second series he slowly transformed into a Davros-style character and tried to kill Stu and Rich. His theme tune was the song "Kurious Oranj" by The Fall.
This was perhaps the most controversial sketch in the entire show. It featured Jesus and some of his more famous disciples having conversations as depicted in the Bible. However, Matthew was particularly cynical in this portrayal, and questioned Jesus's habit of saying something nonsensical and justifying it with a cryptic "Aaaaah!". Usually this would lead to an outright argument with Jesus, making him look like a fool. Occasionally Matthew would hit Jesus - brilliant Sunday morning programming!
The Lettuce Family
Perhaps the most surreal regular item in the show, this one really split the fan base. Essentially it was a sitcom/soap opera acted out by fruit and vegetable puppets. The dialogue was a series of noises, although real scripts were actually written (the actors were just instructed to not say the real words). The most popular variant of this item was a reprise of the "consider the lily" episode of Sunday Heroes.
Hobby obsessed, socially inadequate Simon Quinlank gave an arrogant and hostile guide to his favourite hobbies, which were all of an odd, misanthropic and often illegal nature. Such hobbies included "arse rubbing", "old man collecting", "train ignoring" and "egg smashing". Quinlank spoke in a fast, frantic manner and enjoyed weak lemon drink. He believed himself to be the king of all hobbies, and had a sworn enemy by the name of Neil Petark.
Due to the themes visited in many of the sketches (drugs, bestiality, religion) and some of the adult humour (and language!) in the show, each episode was subject to many complaints and was featured on the right to reply programme Points of View on numerous occasions. For a series being shown on a mainstream TV channel in a Sunday morning slot it was incredibly daring, and most of the material escaped from being watered down.
Theme Tune Lyrics
[alarm clock beeps]
Wake up! Get out of bed, put on your clothes,
another day is dawning! Turn on your TV,
it's time to watch This Morning With
Ri-ii-i-iii-ii-ii-ii-chard not Ju-uu-uu-uudy.
Let down your hairs, forget all your cares.
Kick off your shoes, here is the news.
Take off your shirt, here is the dirt.
Take off your pants - thanks!
Ri-ii-i-iii-ii-ii-ii-chard not Ju-uu-uu-uudy
For better not worse, it's live not rehearsed.
Made for no money, surprisingly funny.
Please welcome your hosts, they are called Rich and Stu.
They have no idea, so let's see how they do,
on This Morning With
Ri-ii-i-iii-ii-ii-ii-chard not Ju-uu-uu-uudy.
Despite rumours that the BBC have deleted the series from their archives, Richard Herring states that they are in fact still intact down in the BBC stores. However, a DVD release is unlikely, as the BBC have never been encouraging about the show, and were quick to snuff it out completely after the second series. There is an online petition at http://www.fistoffun.net/petition.htm, but Herring states that this is unlikely to change things much.
On the plus side, fan-made recordings exist and are available on the Internet along with other Lee and Herring material. You can find the entire run of TMWRNJ at torrent sites (in surprisingly high quality for amateur recordings). Although the BBC might not condone this sort of distribution, Lee and Herring are happy about it as long as it's not for profit.
Sources: http://leeandherring.com/, http://richardherring.com/faq/