It’s been a big year for Richard Herring. On top of the usual business of touring a solo show (What Is Love Anyway?), hosting the Leicester Square Theatre podcasts, writing a new show (Talking Cock: The Second Coming), taking it to Edinburgh, doing live podcasts at the Fringe, starting to tour the new show, doing more comedy podcasts, plus various benefit gigs and stand up spots whilst maintaining a daily blog and playing snooker with himself; he got married, supported Scope, became a Metro columnist and is writing a new sitcom for the BBC.
We asked him a few questions in the wake of an attempted holiday and ahead of his London gigs at the Southbank Centre.
We read on your blog that September was meant to be a London holiday at home for you and your wife – how did that go?
It did not go well. We both had work to do in the end, which I ended up failing to do, meaning I neither properly worked or got a holiday. We did manage a day or two out and about and very much enjoyed the Shakespeare exhibition at the British Library. The problem with holidaying at home is that it’s too easy for people to get in touch with you. You really need to go away. But I would love to make more of the wonderful galleries and historical buildings in my home town.
You’ve lived in Shepherds Bush for years — what’s best about the ‘Bush?
Walking up the Uxbridge Road on a summer evening with the sun setting ahead of you, is like going on a walk through the world, every few yards entering a new country, experiencing a different culture, the smells, the sights, the sounds. For me one of the wonderful things about this city is that the citizens come from every place on earth and yet (largely) get on side by side in the same place.
I like the fact that (outside of the shopping centres) there aren’t too many recognisable stores — there’s lots of independent shopkeepers still. Plus if you like fried chicken you have the choice of about three dozen different outlets. There’ll usually be one no more than ten feet from you. So that’s handy.
The people are real, the streets are lively, there’s an undercurrent of danger but it’s still pretty safe. Plus I once saw a homeless man brazenly shitting in the street in broad daylight. You can’t get stuff like that in Chiswick.
How many euphemisms for penis do you use in Talking Cock, and are you looking forward to using them at the Purcell Room?
I probably only use a dozen or so euphemisms, most of them early on to ease people in before the show starts to surprise them with its sensitivity and thoughtfulness (and then its crassness and disgustingness). I am looking forward to playing in the Purcell Rooms. I played there in about 1981 with the Kings of Wessex brass band in a competition, inadvertently playing a trumpet solo when I accidentally played a note after everyone else had stopped. I never dreamt then that I’d return to the same room to talk about my cock for 90 minutes. And I assume nor did anyone else. But it’s happening.
Where in London do you most like to perform, and to watch comedy?
The Leicester Square Theatre has become the spiritual home of my podcasts and is a surprisingly intimate space given that it seats 400 and I loved doing my last DVD recording at the Bloomsbury. The Balham Banana remains one of the top venues for stand up, as it was in 1990 when I started doing it. Also the Soho Theatre’s new basement bar is a really good place to do and watch comedy,
We miss AIOTM (aiotm!) but we have got the excellent Leicester Square podcasts (RHLSTP) to listen to — which comedian alive or dead would you most like to chat to live and unscripted?
I think Andy Kaufman would have been a pretty terrific guest. In fact if he was still around I am sure he’d be making some awesome podcast. I would be happy for one of my Mes to step aside for him to join me in a frame of Me1 vs Me2 snooker too. But also anyone from Monty Python or Rik Mayall would be dream guests for RHLSTP. I also tried to persuade Chris Morris to come on but he politely declined saying no one would be interested. He was very wrong and would be a fucking amazing guest too. He’d love it if he tried, I know
A new lot of Londoners will know you through your Metro column – what’s the response been like?
Really good. Nearly all positive and it seems to have made a lot of new people aware of my stuff. It’s great that they’ve let me get on writing whatever I like with next to no censorship. In fact the ruder ones seem to be the ones that get the most positive remarks. Lots of people tell me that they have to stifle giggles on the bus or tube into work and that’s a lovely thought. Weirdly it’s probably the outlet that has brought my stuff to the biggest audience ever (possibly aside from the TV shows I did in the 90s). Of course some people fucking hate me too, but I’d be disappointed if that was not the case. I am not to everyone’s tastes.
You’re writing a new satirical sitcom for the BBC – Ra Ra Rasputin – was it Boney M or your history degree that sparked such an interest in the man?
I was a bit obsessed with Rasputin at school because he came back from the dead and could magically heal people. Nowadays I am as interested in the way that his life has been mythologised and the fact that he was genuinely almost the world’s first rock star (though using religion rather than music) and the parallels between our divided society and pre-revolutionary Russia. The Boney M song demonstrates how his life became a myth (pretty much none of the stuff in it is historically accurate – Boney M should be ashamed of themselves) but the music proves a useful conduit to make some of the points I want to make.
Would you rather be write for telly or be on the telly?
If the stuff I write could get on TV then I would be more than happy just to be a writer. Stand up provides all the showing off performance time I need. If the right thing came along I’d like to do both writing and performing, but increasingly I prize my anonymity and am glad to be a niche interest. If you made me choose though I’d definitely write rather than be on telly. But if I had to choose between writing and stand up I’d choose stand up. Though the Richard Herring in AIOTM and even RHLSTP is desperate to get back on telly the one writing this is pretty content with the strange level of near fame without anyone really knowing who I am that I have achieved.
Richard Herring’s show ‘Talking Cock’ comes to London’s Southbank Centre 17, 19 & 20 October. For tickets and details go to www.richardherring.com/gigs.
Read our guide to watching live comedy in London.