Digital Spy interview

Richard Herring ('Christ On A Bike')
Wednesday, December 29 2010, 09:53 GMT
By Mayer Nissim, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Known to a generation of comedy fans as one half of the duo who brought us Fist Of Fun and This Morning With Richard Not Judy, Richard Herring has been spreading his wings over the past few years as a solo performer. After winning us over with shows like Talking Cock, ménage à un and last year's Hitler Moustache, Herring has this year resurrected (ahem) his 2001 show Christ On A Bike for its Second Coming. We got on the phone to talk to Richard about religion, controversy and why we may one day our grubby hands on a TMRNJ DVD...

What can you tell us about Christ On A Bike?
"It's about my relationship with Jesus as an atheist really, but an atheist who has a slightly odd obsession. I was brought up as a Christian and believed it for a bit and then started turning against it quite young. When I first did this show I was 33, so I was the same age as Jesus, so it was about trying to work out if I'd achieved as much in my life as Jesus had in his and whether I had any right to criticise him. Arguably he did do a bit more and will be remembered longer than I will... it's arguable!"

Do you think it's a controversial show? Do you want it to be?
"I don't really think like that - I guess that people do take it controversially. I'm aware that when I do a show called Hitler Moustache with me dressed as Hitler or Christ On A Bike with me dressed as Jesus that some people aren't going to necessarily like it - but most of my shows if you come and see them they're different from how you expect them to be. Most religious people who have come and seen it have really liked it because it asks the questions that they as intelligent people will have asked themselves. It's not going to shake anyone's faith, and it's not meant to do that. It's comedy's job to take a look at controversial issues and I think very carefully about why I'm doing it and what I'm wanting to say. It doesn't delight me if I offend someone."

You were lumped in with 'offensive comedians' in an article not long ago - does the media have its eye on comedy as something it can mine for controversy?
"Hopefully comedians are doing these things in order that people discuss the issues. It's better that we talk about it rather than make knee-jerk reactions. That article made me look like a racist, or certainly a comedian who was saying racist things to rub people up the wrong way, whereas that show was very much not that. It was very much a thoughtful and if anything a slightly-embarrassingly right-on diatribe. I think journalists are looking to create controversy but then so are a lot of comedians. It's not like comedians are outside of criticism and they're allowed to whatever they want."

What do you think about the response to Frankie Boyle's jokes about Katie Price's son?
"I blame Channel 4 for allowing it to go out. There's a lot of stuff on TV at the moment where it seems absolutely fine to mock disabled people for no reason. I find it pointless and just embarrassing. I think people think they're being edgy but they're just being pr*cks. I think for a grown man to start taking the p*ss out of an actual 8-year-old boy, even if he wasn't disabled, on national TV - that's slightly weird. Unless you've got something amazing to say about that subject, I think you've crossed a line there... I don't like the idea of millionaires picking on the weakest in society and bullying them."

What do you think about Boyle's work in general?
"I can completely understand what he's doing, I've seen it. He's saying the most outrageous thing he can. He doesn't mean it. We all do it with our friends. I think there's a difference when it goes on TV. I'm a massive advocate of free speech, and I also think you have a responsibility as a comedian and a broadcaster to think about those things... You have to make your own decisions as a comedian. I do work with Scope and I think if I was going to joke about disability I'd want to be on the side of the disabled. I'd want to be making some point about the unfairness of society, rather than just getting a cheap laugh out of one child. I really like Frankie Boyle, and I enjoy it, and there's an element where you go 'This what you get with this guy'... but there's a point where it stops being a joke. It's interesting to play around with that, and I'm all for freedom of expression, so I absolutely just blame Channel 4 for putting it out."

You seem quite down on the chances of Fist Of Fun and TMWRNJ getting a DVD release...
"Yeah. It seems crazy to that that never happened. It seemed odd to me that the BBC have never done it. Just recently there was a guy who worked at the BBC who was trying to push that forward but he kind of hit a brick wall with the BBC. For me it's just crazy because [Stewart Lee's] profile is much much higher now, and also both of us go out gigging. We could both easily sell 5,000 DVDs in a year just by touring. It just seems nuts to me that they don't want to do it. We both would really like to do it and do it properly."

Is that a real possibility?
"There's a possibility that we might do it ourselves. We're just looking into buying it and doing ourselves. With [independent DVD firm] Go Faster Stripe you don't have to sell all that many - the costs are very low. I think it would cost us something like £10,000 a series to buy them off the BBC. There would then be other costs obviously and I don't know what the the issues are with paying the actors. I think that's a better way to do it, because if we do it through the BBC they'd f**k it up and they wouldn't promote it, and even if it did sell we wouldn't make any money off it. If we can work it out I think we're both kind of happy to do it so it can exist. We might do it a series at a time and see how it goes. It might happen."

How do you feel about Stewart's "Richard Herring" voice in his one-man-dialogues?
"We worked together for 15 years really so if we weren't influenced by each other it would be kind of odd. We spent all that time working together and we kind of created a comedy template with each other. I think because we both spent a lot of time writing for two people, we both do a lot of little conversations within our stand-up. I don't think I do Stewart's voice for it but I don't mind him doing it."

Do you think your material is similar to his?
"When I was started doing stand-up and Stew became the most successful stand-up comedian in the country, people would say 'Your stuff is very like Stewart Lee', some people not even knowing we'd worked together. I think people compare us with each other a lot less now. I think that we are branching out and going in different ways up to a point. People want you to be jealous of each other, and if one of us is going to have a TV show I'd prefer it was me! But it's not like I'd rather neither of us had a TV show. We went through a lot together so it's great to see him being that successful and the BBC embracing him now an a way that they never did with the two of us"

Richard Herring is on tour with Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming. For details see his official website.