Several shitty years later
i’m so middle aged. ‘look at my tree collection’. ‘i have so many opinions on regressive taxation’. ‘i still don’t understand my iphone’.
At least you don’t dress like me.
which i have just watched
- it’s really interesting to see how developed and solidified the comic personas already were - i mean they are in their late twenties but there’s just such a consistent through line from then to now of a) stewart lee’s big props/’ah no see you’ve confused (this thing) with (this other totally unlike thing)’/talking a little faster and meaner than you’d generally expect comedians to talk schtick where he generally refuses to disguise his anger or intellect and never talks down to the audience and b) richard herring’s consistently calculated air of befuddlement, a sort of foppish ‘oops did i really say that well it’s good that we’re all friends here isn’t it i mean i’m not remotely threatening so we must be friends’ which is so visibly calculated as to be as obviously defensive as stewart lee’s ‘anger’ - it’s so clear, then and now but i suppose even more transparent then, that these were young men who did not get on easily with others and set up all these mechanisms though which to socialise (and there’s a whole other argument that postcard and i were having about how their relative beauty caused them to fall into those roles - like, this is not the only factor, but it’s certainly a factor)
- all the super short snaps of dense text basically demand that you record the show or procure recordings of the show later - which in a vhs world, before ease of uploading and whatnot, is so confidently cumbersome - the balls on them to put blocks of tiny text on the fucking credits, just demanding attention - i love it
- some of the bizarre (frequently without obvious climax or punchline) interstitial skits explain the bizarre, punchlineless skits to follow in stewart lee’s comedy vehicle - neither of them seem to be all that fond of of “conventional climaxes”, or, for that matter “conventional jokes”
- though richard herring starts out with more of the “conventional jokes”, see the performative charming accessiblity thing above
- is the set meant to be an underground station? are they saying something about liminal spaces? have i been awake too long?
- the whole thing reads like a sort of self aware and a propos grimmer “nozin’ aroun’”, the young one’s show within a show - i can’t work out the intentional/co-incidental ratio on this
i sent you messages about this, but as i too have just watched series one of fist of fun for the first time, i thought i’d do this publicly, too:
- the set is supposed to be the deepest, darkest, most neglected part of the basement of the bbc. (this is why they are wheeled in and out in boxes at the start and end of every show). their ‘corner’ of the set where it is implied they have been living/squatting is basically a miniaturised copy of the flat which they shared at the time, down to the weird shit they did to their walls, like cover lots of their surfaces with paper. (i suspect this is how stewart lee in particular may use space conceptually to help him think.) the slogan posters on the walls — 'to fail is art', the other, more disturbing one upstairs which i’ve momentarily forgotten — are actually slogans of the fluxus art movement, and made by stewart lee. although ‘fist of fun’ was in theory a light entertainment programme, they did everything physically possible to make it look like a beckettian vision of purgatory. the space is liminal on purpose. you’re supposed to feel unsettled. you’re supposed to not quite understand what you’re watching and what’s happening. why are these two strange men trapped in this space? why do they never try to leave? this is ‘waiting for godot’ as… what even is this show? how do you even define it?
- (also, cos this is something stewart lee is involved in, it’s metatheatre. they’re in the basement of the bbc because that’s what the bbc think they’re worth. they’re strange and scary and they’re not really light entertainment presenters at all. and they know it. you laugh at something stewart lee says and he berates you for it. you don’t laugh at what richard herring is saying because it’s so disturbing you don’t even know what to do with it. it’s dada television.)
- sidenote: i think possibly the most amusing thing about ‘fist of fun’ is watching the slow decline of stewart lee’s hair. it started off so great! and it gets worse because he stopped listening to the producer who told him he looked better with the post-punk quiff (he did). he also still has a vendetta against his wardrobe— as some weeks, the costume people made him wear a strange approximation of his real wardrobe, except too big and the colours didn’t match. it is quite weird. richard herring blames the failure of this show on stewart lee’s terrible hair. NOT UNFOUNDED, PROBS.
- i really do not fucking know what this show is. i do not know if i could recommend it to anyone else, in case they came back to me and said ‘why did you tell me to watch this show about a man who wants to keep a woman in a well and his… boy… friend?’ what i feel it is, to be honest, is a show that i have always wanted to watch, and that it’s probably that show for quite a small, weird group of people. what i really got from fist of fun is that i hope richard herring drags stewart lee back into television when they’re in their sixties and they write (and possibly perform) some kind of terrifying existentialist dread-not comedy that they show on bbc 2 at about 10:30 at night.
dada light entertainment
existentialist skit show masquerading as something for the youth
waiting for godot for the mtv generation
stare into the void for 28 minutes w/ a studio audience
A MAN WHO WANTS TO KEEP A WOMAN IN A WELL AND HIS BOYFRIEND
i recommend lars von trier’s melancholia with a codicil: this film will only make sense if you have suffered clinical depression or cared for someone suffering clinical depression.
i recommend fist of fun with a codicil: this show will only make sense if you’ve suffered depression or anxiety, spent a lot of time angry/crying over society, if you think that being discomforted by art is important, and in some ways, comforting?
When I was having a Bit Of A Breakdown as an undergraduate, I used to obsessively watch Fist Of Fun and occasionally pause and look around my room at the polystyrene packaging I was using as little skips. Pete Baynham is probably the best depiction of clinical depression I have ever seem.
Stewart Lee and Richard Herring as Noel Edmonds and Mr Blobby.