Richard Herring: Ricky Gervais' 'mong' comments just weren't funny
Comedian Richard Herring talks to Metro about his latest DVD Christ On A Bike, why he'd never want to play the O2 Arena and what he thinks of his Twitter row with Ricky Gervais fans.
What inspired the show?
Back in 2001, when I originally wrote this, I was arguing with my parents, who are religious, and my mum said: If youre convinced Jesus didnt exist, why are you always reading and talking about him? So its looking at the reasons why I, as an atheist, was obsessed with Jesus.
What are your favourite pieces of Jesus-related trivia?
There are bits in the Bible put in to fulfil prophecies and other little bits are probably true. Jesuss enemies called him a glutton and a winebibber, so its nice to find out he liked to eat and drink and to get little glimpses of whoever the actual person was.
Religion is a well-worn subject matter for comedy were you concerned about that?
Ive done a show about penises and most comedians have ten minutes of cock jokes. The challenge is finding original things to say. Im doing a show about love at the moment. Its not like a subject is finished and everyone has to stop talking about it.
Has your Twitter feud with Ricky Gervais blown over?
It wasnt a feud with him. I wrote a blog saying maybe using disablist language is the same as using racist language and maybe we shouldnt because its hurtful to disabled people. To find out that saying we should be considerate to disabled people is the most controversial thing Ive said in my career is interesting. It seems fairly reasonable. A comedian has a responsibility to themselves to consider the consequences of what theyre doing. If its funny enough, you can get away with virtually anything in comedy. You should consider the effects of throwing disablist language around. Being on the sharp end of his followers calling me a mong for a week, I can see that whatever Ricky thinks the word mong has become, the 500,000 people following him dont agree or dont understand the subtleties hes coming up with.
So do you think the word shouldnt be used?
Ive worked with the disability charity Scope for eight years and met disabled people and know how much this stuff affects them. I dont think its for a non-disabled multi-millionaire to say the word has been reclaimed. That word hasnt changed meaning its always meant the same thing. People get defensive and say: I dont use it in that way but thats where it derives from. Rickys done amazing stuff about our attitudes to disability in his TV work. With this, the worst thing about it was it wasnt funny. There are comedians who use disablist language as a punchline and I think, since disabled people dont have equality in our society, its something worth standing up for.
Its an unfortunate coincidence you say on your DVD Ricky Gervais hasnt made a funny film in his career, then?
Yes, it is. Originally, that bit was about Steve Carell. I changed the person every time. Its not massively aimed at Ricky. Steve Carell is one of the funniest people on the planet but Id struggle to think of a good film hes done. Its just a joke.
How has the comedy world changed since you started?
It swings from one way to another. People want gritty jokes, then they dont, and it goes back the other way. Its a bigger business now. The stadium tours are the big difference but not much else has changed. People go into it thinking they can make money from it, whereas I went into it wanting to be a comedian. Its hard to get to that stadium level, only a handful of guys get there, and the ones who do it are very good at it.
Would you want to do arena shows yourself?
I make a nice living doing what I do. I currently perform to around 200 to 400 people. However, 1,000 might be nice thats still a manageably intimate amount. Comedy, for me, is as much about me enjoying it as everyone else. The only comedian Ive seen work at the O2 was Tim Minchin and he had a massive orchestra with him. I dont see why people would go to see comedy where they sit half a mile away from the stage and watch it on a screen why spend that money? Im at a level Im very happy to be at. I have enough people wanting to come to see me that I can make a living but I can go around without people recognising me.
What are the benefits of doing smaller shows?
Its good as a writer. I can listen to peoples conversation without them thinking: Is that Richard Herring listening to us? Ten years ago, Id have said I wanted to be the most successful, famous comedian of my generation but its a trade-off. This is my tenth solo tour and Ive built that up from 100 people seeing me. Its a slow build but the word-of-mouth thing is much more satisfying than doing a comedy set for TV, which might be very different to my live stuff.
Christ On A Bike is out now on DVD.www.richardherring.com
Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/showbiz/interviews/883141-richard-herring-ricky-gervais-mong-comments-just-werent-funny#ixzz1f5pyf74k