I was massively looking forward to tonight's RHLSTP with Simon Pegg and a mystery guest who I planned to keep secret from the crowd until he (or she) walked on to the stage. But I was woken at 7 by surging winds and a car alarm going off and wondered if any of us would be able to make it to the theatre.
But although trees on train lines would mean a few audience members had to give up their tickets, by the evening it was clear that everything would go ahead. It felt like ages since I'd last done the commute to the theatre, even though it was only two weeks. As you cross from the Central line to the Northern Line there's a little stretch of tunnel which acts as a time tunnel as they're removed the more recent advertising posters and revealed the remnants of ones from years ago. I know there are eerie disused stations you can go to where there are still billboards from decades ago. But there's something equally discombobulating about being whisked back a few years in your own lifetime. A bit of internet research suggests that for those few seconds commuters are getting a vision of 2006 or 2007 with adverts for the book "Agent Zigzag" (which I read at the time - it was very good), the theatre show Avenue Q (a long running smash though now no longer in production) and the Ben Stiller version of Heartbreak Kid and a film I don't remember called "Someone Else" with Stephen Mangan. At the time these adverts went up no one would know which projects would soar and which would disappear from the memory. It's like visiting a mini-Pompeii and seeing what the inhabitants of a city we can never return to were consuming as entertainment. Or not. Someone has recently graffited the Stephen Mangan poster so it reads, "Someone Else's Wife" which seems a lame bit of work from a casual vandal. Because there's every change that's what the film is about. I don't know why they felt the need to destroy this bit of history with such a pointless addition. Would you graffiti Pompeii? Yes you probably would. Loads of people do.
I haven't seen Simon Pegg for a very long time. In fact the last time might well have been during the Lee and Herring tour on Tuesday 14th May 1998 in Sheffield. I know this because of the Lee and Herring tour diary at leeandherring.com, which reads "We set off for Manchester at midday. In the hotel foyer we meet some of Steve Coogan's musicians and dancers, who are playing Sheffield tonight, and have a chat. His wardrobe woman is obsessed with the Curious Orange and we let her try the head on which delights her. She says she berated Jason Orange in a bar in Manchester for not having heard of the Curious Orange. This is odd as we had tried to book him to appear in show 7 as a substitute Curious Orange, but he wasn't allowed to by his manager - the idiot.
Simon Pegg who's in the Coogan show, rushes out as we're leaving to say hi. It looks like they're all having fun, but they've still got a long time to go. I'm glad our tour is only brief."
(I remembered it on the podcast as being in Hull, but maybe we bumped into them there too). Ah the wonders of documenting one's life. I wish I had kept a diary for my whole life rather than little patches.
I was concerned that he might have changed and become all Hollywood and not be up for a bit of banter. If I told him I didn't like, "Run, Fatboy, Run" would be upset with me? It turned out that he was, as so many of my guests have annoyingly been, very down to earth and up for a laugh. I am delighted that I can get guests of this calibre and also pleased to see old friends have such huge success and manage to remain reasonable human beings. He took my mild rudeness on the chin and joined in, though discretely drew a veil over answering in too much detail about what it was like behind the scenes on Coogan's tour or what Tom Cruise might be like in real life (he's lovely apparently). It was powerfully hot on stage and even one podcast was quite draining, but I had another one to do.
And the surprise guest, which it seemed most of the audience didn't realise, was Stephen Merchant. Having been on my almost best behaviour with Simon I felt comfortable with relaxing a bit more with Stephen as I have met him and worked with him quite a few times and knew he was capable of dealing with me and giving back way more than I could give him. And mostly this worked brilliantly and it's an extremely funny conversation (these two podcasts will be out in a month or so as we have a back log). But the podcast Richard Herring is a bit of a dick sometimes, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident and I have little control over him. Surrounded by all these film stars and a bit hot, he got over-excited and over-tired and buoyed up by the fun of all the banter perhaps pushed things slightly too far. I wouldn't mind as it makes for an entertaining podcast and Stephen was more than equal to it, but it's me, not RHLSTP Richard Herring who ends up being embarrassed. I was actually trying to have a more serious chat about the change in emphasis between series 1 and series 2 of Extras, but it didn't come out quite right and then I felt my only option was to dig myself in even deeper and say ruder things on purpose. A couple of the things that the Richard Herring character said were brilliant (I don't know where he gets it from), but some of it was a bit shit. And for the first time in ages I worried that I might genuinely have slightly upset my guest, which is the last thing I want to do. I want this to be fun for us more than anything else. I hope that Stephen appreciated that my cheekiness and rubbishness came from a place of enormous respect for him. The people I talked to afterwards felt that it had all been fine and such tensions and risks and the unusual interview technique of rudeness over arse-kissing are what makes the podcast fun. I just felt a bit disappointed with my performance in the last ten minutes of the series, though being in the odd position that much of the incompetence was deliberate. Even I am slightly confused about the line between what is genuine failure and what is manufactured.
I did consider afterwards that Stephen himself if the king of playing around with the comedy of embarrassment and also of saying near the knuckle things to celebrities and I am pretty sure he took it all in the spirit it was intended. And there's no wrong answers in RHLSTP. Even when the host's mouth runs away with him and the joke crashes and burns, that's still part of the fun. But I do sometimes smart for a few hours or days after the recording fretting about what that fucking idiot has got me into now. Other shows edit out the awkward bits. I like to leave them in wherever possible. In a sense this is what makes it brilliant.
In a sense.
So I think you'll enjoy it and I hope that Stephen enjoyed it. The series pass is looking exceptional value now with eight videos (including a mental breakdown) from Pegg, Merchant, O'Briain, Noble, Jupp, Hart, Hound and Khorsandi all in the mix. You can buy it (or individual episodes) here. If you only listen to the audio then perhaps consider purchasing one episode - just choose the guest you'd most like to get 80p.
I had a few drinks to wash away my shame, but it hung around me like a Ready Brek morning. I am a massive tool. It's the secret of my success and no doubt of my failure. But it does mean that with me and RHLSTP you get an experience that you wouldn't get anywhere else. Looking forward to the next run in February and March 2014. No guests confirmed as yet, but some interest from some more fantastic names. Don't miss out. Book now!