Stewart Lee, part of the hip double-act with Richard Herring, is, perhaps surprisingly, a closet fan of Richard and Judy, the master and mistress of middlebrow morning TV. It's like discovering that Chris Evans really admires Terry Wogan (which he does). Lee and Herring's new live show, This Morning with Richard Not Judy II, uses the morning-TV format, but, Lee stresses, "It is not a parody. We're just doing a discussion show. We're comedians, but we're not trying to make fun of the way they behave. I wouldn't dare to - they do their job really well. That's proved by the fact that they've lasted so long, unlike Anne and Nick. We're lucky to have them - at least the people who don't go out in the day are."
The This Morning format works as a vehicle for Lee and Herring, he reckons, "because Richard and Judy are like a comedy double-act themselves.There is obvious sexual tension, and you can see them digging at each other. Like when Richard tries to be cool by using inappropriately rude words - he said a wine was "crap" - Judy visibly gets annoyed. You'd script that sort of thing if you were writing a double act."
The show certainly affords ample scope for Lee and Herring's trademark bickering. "On his own as a stand-up, Richard [Herring] likes to go too far and that can be embarrassing for the audience. But if someone else is there saying `don't do that', he is acting on the audience's behalf and relieving them of the responsibility of being offended. With the dialogue between a double act, the audience is invited to take sides. We did stuff about the Louise Woodward trial and the death of Diana, which would have been difficult on your own. As a discussion, it's easier for the audience to take."
The stage performances are also acting as a warm-up for Lee and Herring's new TV series, going out live on BBC2 in February. The only thing Lee is concerned about is the micro-budget they have been given by the BBC. "One thing we always used to like doing was filming enormous set-pieces outside," he observes. "Luckily, there's Armstrong and Miller to go and film elaborate sketches now that we can't afford it. So, at least there will still be large groups of people running around on moors somewhere in Britain." In the meantime, Lee has the consolation of developing sitcom ideas for several interested US networks. "When I was over there, I got a car-parking pass at Disney with my name and a picture of Mickey Mouse on it," he says proudly. "It was worth it just for that."
Lee and Herring's `This Morning With Richard Not Judy II' is at the Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London (0171-223 2223) tomorrow at 1pm and then every Sunday to 14 Dec