Metro 76

Richard Herring: Me, Edinburgh Fringe and a ducky menage a trois

Friday 9 Aug 2013 6:00 am

My 22nd Edinburgh Fringe is progressing well. People are coming to see both my shows and they are laughing. It’s good to have a job where success is so easy to evaluate, although it does make failure painfully obvious too.
As well as performing my stand-up show We’re All Going To Die! at the Pleasance every night, I am recording a chat show each afternoon at The Stand called Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe Podcast. Even if you can’t get here to watch it, you can listen for free on iTunes or the British Comedy Guide.
When I came to this Festival in my twenties, my main objective was to get drunk and try to kiss women. I managed the former with impressive regularity, although proved less successful with the latter. I wonder if those facts could be connected. The actual shows were an annoying distraction from the boozing, failing and weeping. By the end of every August, I would be a husk of a man, two stone heavier (mainly due to unreleased gametes) with a liver that creaked like a leaking pirate ship.
Now, my focus has totally changed. The Fringe is a bizarre health farm. I go to the gym daily, walk everywhere, cook proper meals with vegetables in them (readily available in Scotland despite what 60 per cent of stand-ups will tell you) and focus on perfecting my shows.
And even though nightly, women hang around at the stage door prepared to give themselves to me and commit any sordid act I desire (I am assuming; I always slip out of a side door to avoid them), I am happily married. My wife has to kiss me whenever I want, unless she doesn’t feel like it because I’ve been annoying. Which apparently includes any time I say she has to kiss me because we’re married.
If you’re going to be in Edinburgh this August, then I would recommend a fascinating and hilarious show called Set List. Comics step on to the stage with no idea of what they’re about to discuss but are presented with a list of words written by someone else, which they have to improvise a comedy set around as if it’s their own. Last weekend my topics included Castration After Party, Duck, Duck, Orgasm and Goldfish Liberation Army.
As you might imagine, this isn’t easy, even for a seasoned professional. When I started doing stand-up I dreamed of the day I would be adept enough to entertain an audience without any prepared material. This show gives me the chance.
Beforehand, you’ll see top comedians nervously pacing around as if they were about to do their first ever open spot. Believe me, the terror is genuine. Comedic death is very likely.
Paul Provenza, one of the team behind the gig, says: ‘Asking a stand-up to improvise an entire set is like asking a magician to do real f***ing magic.’ He is not far wrong. My set list led to me discussing my desire to have a ménage à trois with aquatic birds and explaining that it’s odd that all the eunuchs want to go to the castration after-party because once there, nobody is having a ball.
As for the Goldfish Liberation Army, I detailed how it was formed by fish wanting to rescue their brothers from bowls. They came up with a brilliant plan. Unfortunately three seconds later, they forgot about the whole thing.
Exhilarating when it works. Painful but interesting when it fails. It’s coming to Sky Atlantic this year but is well worth catching live. Just to smell the acrid stench of a comedian’s terror.
Richard’s new show We’re All Going To Die! is at Pleasance Beyond at 8pm daily throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For tickets see