Interview: Rarely Asked Questions – Richard Herring

richard herring happy now?

Podcast pioneer, purveyor of plays, stand-up comedian. Richard Herring's work ethic is enviable. This year he became a father and decided not to do Edinburgh but did he take his foot off the gas? Hardly. Instead he did a run of 12 shows in London reviving his last eleven full-length shows and then adding a new one, Happy Now? on the end. After tackling men's tackle in Talking Cock, the Bible in Christ on a Bike, death in We’re All Going To Die! and the thrill of life itself in Lord of the Dance Settee, he has just set off on a national tour of his new show. Expect some gags about being a father, but not a whole show about babies, otherwise I guess he would have called it Nappy Now? Dates here. As well as his gigs you can enjoy Herring's consistently enjoyable Leicester Square Interview podcasts from the comfort of your home. They are also on YouTube and recent guests include Joe Lycett, Limmy and Al Murray. As I said he's one of the hardest working comedians in the business, so thank you Richard for finding the time to take part in BTJ's RAQS. It's a very good one too. 




1. What is the last thing you do before you go onstage (apart from check your flies, check for spinach between teeth and check your knickers aren't sticking out of your skirt)?

It varies: sometimes I try to get a bit pumped up by moving about or dancing to the walk-in music, sometimes I just stand waiting quietly. I don’t really get nervous any more and occasionally it worries me that I am too calm, but the walk on to stage and the applause is usually enough to get the adrenaline pumping. But on the whole an empty mind before the show is the best thing and I will often play a game on my phone, still on it even as the intro music starts. I have occasionally been annoyed that I have to go on stage as I am about to beat my score on Addams Family Pinball and know that if I stop now I won’t be in the zone on my return. The comedy shows are largely an unwelcome distraction from the pinball. Also I spend a bit of time trying to adjust my underwear to be as comfortable as possible, which is difficult due to my oversized genitalia. Finding the right pair of pants to wear on stage is central to being a good comedian.

2. What irritates you?

I am pretty patient on the whole in real life, but things do get to me, especially now we have a baby and I am more tired. Basic impoliteness and people going out of their way to inconvenience you. Like someone who is crossing the road just after the green man has gone and not making any effort to speed up their walk, and in fact slowing down a bit, to make themselves feel important. Let’s try and work together to get through this bleak and desolate and pointless life and help each other, especially when it’s more effort to be unhelpful. Bad internet is also incredibly frustrating as I spend so much time online, but it’s especially irritating that my home broadband is quite unreliable and yet somehow I seem to be convinced to keep with the same provider by them giving me a new hub every now and again.

3. What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
I did a lot of dumb stuff for the Hercules show, like jumping out of a plane, though that’s more of a pretend danger, as you know it’s safe enough really. In reality I am a timid person who doesn’t take risks. Except when I am on stage when I feel pretty invulnerable most of the time and front up to drunk hecklers who could easily kick the shit out of me. Once in Aldershot, a squaddie walked out of my show and I mocked him and he walked up to me (the stage was just the floor of the venue) and went nose to nose with me, threatening me and I just kept on taking the piss. I didn’t feel scared at all, even though no one could have intervened in time to save me had he made a move. I realised afterwards how stupid I had been and that he could have killed me with a punch, but the microphone is like a baton de commandment and you can’t back down on stage. I suppose there’s been a few incidents like that, but so far I remain unpunched (by an audience member at least).
4. What is the most stupid thing you have ever done?
Wait until I was 47 to have a family. But it’s working out OK.

5. What has surprised you the most during your career in comedy?

It’s all surprises. I always wanted to be a comedian but it seemed like a pipe dream, so it was enormously surprising to find that I could give it a go at all. And although we worked hard early on, our rise was rapid and it amazed me that we had our own TV show within six years*. Then it surprised me that they took the TV show off the air. Then it surprised me that they gave me a new one. Then it surprised me when that all just stopped. I was surprised that I was able to cut it as a stand up because I’d always thought I needed other people with me to be funny and I am surprised that people turn up to see me and also am a bit surprised when they don’t. I am surprised that I have never been asked on Mock the Week or Live at the Apollo in spite of having done twelve different 90 minutes stand up shows in 14 years, but then again I would be really surprised if they did have me on either of those shows. It’s all surprises Bruce. I wonder what success or failure will surprise me next.

*Fist of Fun with Stewart Lee

Interview continues here.


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