Email interview

You're previous shows seem to revolve around a common theme or idea, and don't necessarily centre on gags, but have an anecdotal feel. Is this show going to be similar? What's it about? Etc.
Yes it's probably even more like that than some of the recent shows. It's about my adolescence and whether i can blame my dad being my headmaster for the way that I have turned out. Lots of it is just about stupid things I did as a kid which I'd probably have done if my dad wasn't the headmaster. But it's full of stories, mainly funny stories, but some more thoughtful ones - plus a couple of more stand uppy routines, but they all come out of the action

What would you perceive as being your biggest claim to fame? What's your proudest achievement?
I suppose my biggest claim to fame are the TV shows I did in the 1990s with Stewart Lee - though most people one meets doesn't seem to know or remember them, so I don't know if that is fame
I am proudest probably of my first solo show "Christ on a Bike". And I am very proud to have been involved with "On The Hour". I guess blogging every single days for over six years is an achievement too. Not sure it's one to be proud of though.

After this run of dates, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
It's too early to say. I am writing a book concurrently about my immaturity called "Act Your Age Not Your Shoesize" and I will probably do a new show in Edinburgh, possibly called "Hitler Moustache". I suspect I will continue to do my podcasts with Andrew Collings, but apart from that it's up to what I am offered or what ideas people want me to work up.

Any New Year Resolutions?
Not exactly, but I am trying to shed the half a stone I put on over the last two or three months. Going quite well. Lost 3 pounds in the last 3 days!

Have you been to Coventry before? What is your impression of Coventry?
I have been to Coventry. I went there first when I was about 6 and was very impressed and slightly frightened by the Cathedral and that big metal Jesus being crucified on the wall. It stuck in my mind, as did the ruins of the old Cathedral. But when I gig I tend to be at Warwick Arts Centre, so rarely go into town. So mainly I am scared of the Jesus.

You've mentioned on occasion the paranoia, and complexes you've had about performing solo. What's changed? Why the confidence boost now?
I think I've just done it so much over the last five years particularly that I have banished pretty much all paranoia and lack of confidence. It's a hard art to master and the only way to do it is to keep doing it night after night. Even if I have a month away from it I find it takes a while to get back up to speed with it. But I no longer see the audience as my enemy, unless they attack first and this means that 95% of my gigs go really well these days. And I quite enjoy having one in 20 that goes a bit weird. It's my favourite thing now and it has changed my life to come back to it.

Slightly related, but you've written a great deal for other people. Are you happy being in the shadows so to speak? Do you crave the attention, solo stand-up, TV shows etc give you.
I like writing for other people if I think they can do a better job with a script than I would. It's a good way to make a living and sometimes as a writer you create something that there is not a part for yourself to be in. A few years ago I found mainly writing was getting me down a bit, but now I have stand up as an outlet I am happy to write scripts in the daytime (which I sometimes perform) and do gigs in the night. But it's been a while since I did anything major for anyone else. The occasional bit of script editing, which can be fun, as you don't have to do the hard work of creating, just the relatively fun bit of polishing. I definitely need to perform some of the time, but am as happy (if not more so) for that to be on the small scale of stand up clubs rather than TV

Again, slightly related. But some well-known people openly talk of their admiration of your work, Simon Amstell did for one, do you rate him? I also heard Chris Moyles doing the egg bit, about 3 months ago. Does that wind you up a bit? Basically, I guess I'm asking if you feel resentful that you're not a household name? Or lucky that you've managed to have a great, respected and credible career, whilst remaining ethical and morally just?

It is very flattering that so many comedians and other people in comedy were influenced by the work that Stewart and me did together. At the time it felt like we were being ignored, but younger people who were into comedy loved it and still do. So yes, lovely that Amstell is a fan - and I think he's an amazing comedian and great on Buzzcocks too. It doesn't wind me up if anyone remembers our stuff. I know Chris Moyles mentions us every now and again and interviewed us back in the day. I don't particularly like his radio show in this case, but that's not important and I'm sure he doesn't mind. I used to be a bit resentful that Lee and Herring didn't get the recognition I felt we deserved, but in the end it's terrific to have been an influence and lovely that many fans have stayed loyal to us. And you get a bit older and realise there are more important things than being famous. In fact I think the lack of mainstream success has meant that we have both carried on being creative and interesting in a way we might not have been (or been allowed to be) if we had been more "successful". Any respect that I garner is much appreciated and I hope that I am continuing to produce challenging and relevant work and continuing to influence others. My ambition now is to keep working until I die and to not die for at least twenty years. But I hope to be in my seventies and still churning new stuff out. I love comedy and I love to see other people doing it well. If there is some influence from something I have done in something great then I take that as a compliment and am delighted to have been part of the process of creativity.

What are you thoughts on the current stand-up circuit? Do you feel a part of it?

I feel more a part of the current circuit than I did in the early 90s when I started. Partly because there are quite a few comedians clearly influenced by the people I was working with back then. In some ways working alongside these youngsters has made me remember what was good about me before. There are some brilliant and experimental acts and I admire the many younger comics who are trying to create something beautiful and sweet and funny rather than nasty and abrasive. There are many comedians skilled at dealing with a drunk Saturday night crowd and I respect them too, but there are numerous fantastic inventive acts who I love being on the same bill as. Too many to mention them all but people like Josie Long, Matthew Crosby, Terry Saunders, Isy Suttie and of course Daniel Kitson are all well worth watching.

If people decided to come to your gig on a whim. What can they expect? Should they come if they're unfamiliar with your style? Do you encourage Richard Herring virgins to attend?
New people are coming to see me all the time. My audiences are building with every tour. You have to be prepared for a certain amount of off-colour and challenging material, but if they stick with it most people end up being charmed. It's not for everyone and I am not likely to compromise to garner a massive mainstream audience, but there's beauty amongst the strangeness and the rudeness and you need to buy into the fact that most of my jokes are actually aimed squarely at my own stupidity. But I love to take a controversial subject and examine it (often in a daft or offensive way) and make people be forced to consider what they think about it. This includes religion, paedophilia, racism, so if you're the kind of person who thinks that there are some subjects you don't joke about then it might not be for you. Personally I think it's good to challenge people on the things they believe to be true. If it can't hold up to criticism or questioning then maybe it isn't that great a system.
But most of the current show is rather lovely and sweet, despite some very strange and dark interludes.

How would you describe the career you've had so far?
I have been very lucky. It's been a blast. I have realised how fortuntate I am to have worked constantly, had books published and TV shows made. Even though some great projects haven't got to the screen, I have still achieved a great deal so far. And it's not over yet. My only problem at the moment is keeping up with the number of ideas I am having. I think the next ten years might be the best for me on nearly every level. As long as this old body can keep up with my young mind