Metro column 5

Richard Herring: Touring is hard work, dangerous and lonely
Richard Herring reveals why touring is dangerous and lonely, and why a successful gig is much worse than a bad one.

I am currently on a 70-plus date British tour with my show, What Is Love, Anyway? I have spent the past two months bombing up and down motorways, through snow and wind, risking my life to bring laughter to the people of Bridgend and Whitehaven.

Comedians really are the 19th emergency service – only 18 other professions can claim to be more useful and dangerous. I won’t patronise you by listing them.

So far I’ve only nearly killed myself once, when momentarily distracted looking for a sweet on my passenger seat, I almost ploughed into the back of a car that had appeared out of nowhere and was now braking in front of me.

I was inches from doom. But I remained calm in the face of death (aware that the 12 people in Aberdeen who had bought tickets to see me would be furious if they had to travel into the venue to get a refund) and jerked my steering wheel to the right. My car lurched, my props were rolling around in the back and it felt like I had pushed my feet through the floor like Fred Flintstone and jumped the car across the lane.

I was now careering towards the central barrier but, with lightning reflexes, got back on course. I was impressed by my rally driving skills given how fast I’d been going (though obviously under the speed limit for any policemen reading).

I reckoned I could probably become the new Stig. The one from the dump rather than Top Gear – but then I’d rather live among other people’s stinking refuse than have to fraternise with Jeremy Clarkson.

My Formula One application might have to be put on hold though, because the other day in Shrewsbury, I slightly pranged my car driving at three miles an hour through a wide open gate.

All the accidents I’ve ever had have happened at less that 5mph. Which makes me think that I should drive at 70mph the whole time. Even when parking.

Touring is hard work, dangerous and lonely, but I get no sympathy from anyone. People imagine that a comedian has the most gregarious of lives: working for an hour a day, then getting drunk, taking the finest drugs and sleeping with a string of nubile groupies. But in reality, this kind of thing only happens about 97 per cent of the time. And it does not compensate for that yawning three per cent chasm in which we are a secluded breed of unloved outcasts.

If a gig goes badly, there is the mortifying walk of shame, through the throng of disappointed punters, before you are swallowed by the night, making your way anonymously back to your hotel where you sit alone in your room attempting to pleasure yourself to the poor-quality soft pornography, laid on for sexually unambitious businessmen.

If the gig goes brilliantly, it is worse. You have wowed a room of people, you are literally a god to them. But when you return to their earthly realm, real life seems monochrome by comparison. The company of tedious mortals is not something that you crave.

So you head to your hotel alone again, contemplating the fact that the fleeting adoration of a room of drunken idiots is probably no substitute for actual loving companionship.

Then you drink yourself into oblivion before inevitably tuning into Lusty Asians VIII, all the time worrying that you haven’t seen Lusty Asians II-IV or V-VII, so might have missed some important plot developments and be unable to keep up with the story.

This really is the 19th-hardest job in the world.

Richard Herring is currently touring Britain with his show, What Is Love, Anyway?

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