The classic student's hangover cure has traditionally been a couple of Alka Seltzers or two raw eggs. From next Sunday, it's going to take the shape of a couple of comedians, whose new live lunchtime show on BBC2 promises to shake worse-for-wear revellers out of that nauseous, headachy feeling.
Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, as much a student staple as subsidised beer and overdrafts, are switching from Friday night to Sunday lunch time in a bid to create a buzz around a slot more readily associated with worship or The Waltons. To emphasise the appeal of the new transmission time, the show, Lee and Herring's This Morning with Richard Not Judy, is being promoted with a picture of the pair on daytime TV sofas next to a supermarket trolley full of empty wine-bottles and the caption: "bringing reasonable live entertainment to hung-over people waking up late on Sunday morning". Lee and Herring will aim to turn slackerism into an art form.
Getting in some practice, they sit with their feet up on their desks in their central London office. The walls are plastered with wacky pictures, and the pair are surrounded by a blizzard of newspapers, four filing cabinets' worth of material and props such as a replica biplane, a man- sized whale and a giant penis costume - "doesn't every office have one?" asks Herring coyly.
"Friday night at 10 o'clock wasn't a good slot for us," asserts Herring, who is 30. "People our age would be out having fun. But those people will almost certainly be at home watching TV on a Sunday lunch time. Potentially, everyone can watch it. I used to love watching Grange Hill and Wise Up on a Sunday before going out and doing something. It's a really good slot."
But isn't it a bit of a come-down, being moved from the groovers' to the God slot? "No, there's nothing we did on Friday nights that we can't do on Sunday lunch times," Lee contends. "In fact, the Sunday slot gives you an extra frisson. People expect controversy on a Friday night, but if you can make a sly reference to giving head on a Sunday lunch time, the audience whoop."
Lee and Herring have cultivated a culty image, preferring to remain an indie band rather than a chart-topping supergroup. "Nothing we've ever done has broken through the relative-obscurity barrier," admits the 29- year-old Lee, "so all our fans feel there is something special about knowing us. We never go on those Have I Got Sport/ Music/ Ad Space For You shows. The chances are, you're just going to degrade your currency for a pounds 200 fee."
Herring explains the on-screen banter between the two friends who first met at Oxford a decade ago. "Seeing as you're from The Independent, let's call it 'Socratic irony'," he says with a self-mocking smile. "We make a foolish proposition and take it to its most ridiculous extreme. A lot of our stuff is about the logic of arguments and the way people who know each other far too well argue with each other. In one routine, I actually started to cry."
Lee and Herring have been known to cause offence; some religious groups were up in arms over a sketch about Jesus in their last series, Fist of Fun. But, Herring says, complaints come with the territory. "You're going to offend people whatever you do. That shouldn't stop you doing it." By far their largest mail-bag, Lee recalls, was prompted by a sketch which portrayed "the Cubs doing good things such as sorting out African foreign policy, while the Scouts were bad, ripping up the African agreements and giving you Chinese burns".
For all that, Herring maintains, "we never really use swear-words. We try to keep them for special occasions." "Christenings, weddings and bar mitzvahs," Lee adds, quick as a flash. On stage, they play up to the well- established roles of dumb and dumber. "Stewart's persona is vain, but there's this undercurrent of, 'if he's so cool, why is he hanging around with this idiot?'," says Herring. "They're both dysfunctional. I have relationships with animals; Stewart is always trying to impress 13-year- olds. The whole act is about trying to find someone worse than you to make yourself look good."
"In a Beckett short story," Lee chips in, "a man hobbling along on crutches comes across a man who is blind and can't stand up. He's pleased because for the first time in his life he's found someone he can kick. They are two people competing at the bottom of the ladder. That's what we're like."
'Lee and Herring's This Morning with Richard Not Judy' starts next Sunday on BBC2 at 12.15pm.Reuse content