Painting the town Red!

PUBLISHED: 14:04 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

THERE S a longstanding debate among the more anoraky fans of cult sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf as to which incarnation of the ship s downbeat computer Holly was the best, writes Jason Goodyer.

THERE'S a longstanding debate among the more anoraky fans of cult sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf as to which incarnation of the ship's downbeat computer Holly was the best, writes Jason Goodyer.

Was it Norman Lovett, the droopy-eyed down-in-the-mouth bald guy? Or Hattie Hayridge, his similarly dour blonde bobbed counterpart who took over the reigns after Holly fell in love with Hilly, a female computer from a parallel dimension, and based his image on her?

Whatever their preference, fans are being given the rare chance to see both Hollys in one show as they prepare to embark on a double headlined stand-up tour. The show starts with individual routines from each of them and finishes with a combined Q and A session at the end.

Despite it being nearly 10 years since Red Dwarf finished, the tour will mark the first time the two have ever gone out on the road together. So what took them so long?

"We kind of talked about it for ages and we kept saying we should do a stand-up tour together," Hayridge explains. "Norman did one on his own last year and this year we met and said we should do it. About a week later I saw someone who was booking comedy tours and I said: 'Me and Norman were thinking of doing a tour.' and he said: 'I'd love to book that.' So we decided to do it."

Lovett was initially unsure about the idea, thinking their styles were too similar, but as time passed he warmed to the idea.

"This was something that Hattie wanted to do years ago and I remember thinking we were too similar. But I think as we have got older it just seems natural that it has come together like this," he said. "We are more distinctive now than perhaps we were at the time when she took over as Holly. I'm very conversational in my stand-up and quite low key. I guess Hattie is as well but we are completely different in what we do on stage."

The two may have approached the role of Holly with a similar droll, depressed dryness, but in real life they couldn't be more different. Lovett is confident, talkative and gregarious while Hayridge comes across as somewhat distant and coy, periodically punctuating her speech with high-pitched nervous giggles.

They may be most readily recognised for their work in Red Dwarf but both Lovett and Hayridge have been regulars on the comedy circuit for countless years. Hayridge is a veteran of Friday Night Live, BBC's Have I Got News for You and Jonathan Creek and has made numerous appearances at the famous Edinburgh Festival.

"My stuff isn't anti-men or anything like that which is sometimes what people assume if you are a female comic," she said. "It's just based on the little annoying things in life. I'd love to talk about the big issues but I think it's the little things that are the straw that break the camel's back. They are the things that you should be able to deal with and can't, rather than global warming which you can't deal with."

Lovett cut his teeth in the alternative comedy scene of the 80s, has appeared in his own sitcom I, Lovett and has also toured extensively - at one point opening for The Clash.

"In my segment there's some stuff about bankers and things that rhyme with bankers," he said. "Where I live in Clapham it's full of bankers and people like that. Lots of people jogging with rucksacks with weights in and all this sort of thing. I'm against all of that, they annoy me, the joggers. And the bloggers.

"It's stuff that annoys me really and some things that I am quite happy about, like 40 degree washes and a bit of ironing - which calms me down in this stressful world. I'm instinctive as a comedian, I don't say I'll do this and I'll do that, it's mostly just things that I can get really cross about or really happy about. There are lots of layers of stuff really."

While the pair confess there may have been a little bit of rivalry between them in the early days, they both say they are over it now and have grown strangely protective of one another.

"People are always going to judge, but hopefully they just keep it to themselves," Lovett continues. "I remember we were doing signings together at these conventions and this bloke said to me: 'you're the best Holly by far.' And I really had a go at him. I said: 'Look don't be so bloody insensitive, Hattie's sitting right here. Do you think she wants to hear that? Is it fair? He just shut up. There are more important things than worrying about that. I'm funny, she's funny, we both did the same job - end of story."

* Hattie Hayridge and Norman Lovett appear in Red Dwarf Stars at the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon on Tuesday May 20. Call the box office on 020 8688 9291.

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