In Conversation with Richard Herring
21 December 2011 (Comedy Interview)
Interview by: Caroline Foran
Touted, for a reason unbeknownst to him, as the 'King of Edinburgh', Richard Herring has a new comedy show. While other comedians find inspiration in misery, generally preferring to bemoan the obscurities of everyday life, this long serving Edinburgh stalwart has decided to turn his focus on Love. But don't get too excited, ladies, while the press release says it's a show with warmth and at times it's moving, he's still going to try and 'destroy it' all the same. Similar in ways to his last show which dealt with religion, What is Love Anyway tackles another indefinable faith on which many of us live our lives. Herring takes this show to Whelan's on January 6th and if you've ever wanted to question the phenomenon of love, I suggest you get down there. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with the man who launched Alan Partridge to see what he's all about.
We know you've had tons of success at Edinburgh each year, but what do you think makes you the 'King of Edinburgh'?
I don't know where this "King of Edinburgh" nonsense started. I am just one of thousands of performers at the Fringe. The fact that I have performed at 20 Fringes over the last 25 years and done 32 different shows does not make me better or more kingly than anyone else. Not to me anyway. Obviously the people worshipping me as a king feel differently, but I can't speak for them.
We're very excited for you to bring your tour to Ireland. What can we expect from this intriguingly titled show?
I am looking to define love, describe what it means to me and ultimately destroy it. I hope I am not successful because if I do destroy love my girlfriend is going to kill me. I'll be sleeping on the sofa for a couple of weeks after that.
Destroy love? Sounds like a real feel good evening. Where did the idea for this new show come from?
At the end of my last show "Christ on a Bike" I said it was OK if people wanted to believe in God because we all believe in crazy made-up crap to get through this bleak and desolate, pointless life. I suggested love was just as imaginary and unprovable as religion and it was interesting, because an audience who had been laughing at Christianity for 90 minutes would often go a bit quiet, as if to say, "Oh no, hold on, now he's having a go at a magical thing that I believe in." So I thought it would be interesting to investigate this subject and see if I was right to be so cynical.
'Bleak, desolate and pointless' life? You comedians are a right happy bunch. So, how would you describe your style of comedy?
It's a mixture of intelligence and puerility, where ultimately the victim of almost every joke is myself and my own ridiculous life.
Sounds like a winning mix! You were always a big fan of comedy but did you always plan on getting into it as a career?
I always loved comedy and writing and performing and it was always my dream to do it professionally. My career advisor said I couldn't do any of those things because it wasn't on his form, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway.
Fair play. So how did it all start for you then?
I did sketch shows at school and wrote a lot, but I suppose that things really started kicking off once I met Stewart Lee at University and we started writing and performing together. Our first important professional break was to write for Radio 4 show On The Hour which launched Alan Partridge and Chris Morris and many others into the public consciousness.
That's quite a string to your bow. I believe yourself and Stewart Lee cordially ended your comedy partnership. Do you prefer doing comedy on your own?
I like being able to do both and have collaborated with others since Lee and Herring ended. You don't waste too much time arguing with anyone when you're working on your own, but it can get lonely.
I'd say so. Tell us how such a good comedy partnership came to be?
We met in the first term at University and got on really well at a party, looking at a picture of some cricketers on the wall and making up stories about them. We didn't like what anyone else was doing in the comedy club and Stew had heard of a sketch I did about a singing penis and I heard about a sketch he'd done about people holding fruit at a bus stop so we decided to try writing together. We carried on doing that for the next 12 years.
You've had so much success and worked across all platforms of radio TV, stand up, writing and plays etc. What kind of work makes you most happy?
At the moment it's a podcast where I play myself at snooker and commentate on it. I like all aspects of my job but stand up is the most rewarding and important one to me.
What comedians are you finding funny these days?
Tina Fey, Tim Minchin, Stephen Merchant. I also love Jonathan Ames who writes Bored to Death.
What inspires you?
The fact that I will die.
Nice. Describe your perfect day.
Staying in bed with my girlfriend, sleeping, watching videos and making our own amusement.
Amusing yourselves in bed? Moving swiftly on. What will you be getting up to in 2012?
After this massive tour I will be working up a new show for the Edinburgh Fringe (though might revive Talking Cock for its 10th anniversary), hopefully writing a TV comedy drama and doing loads more podcasts and radio shows. I think I am also going to get married.
Yes, please do revive Talking Cock! And apart from all that, what does the future hold for Richard Herring?
I have arrived accidentally in a lovely position where I can make a living doing what I love, but not being well known enough to let it impact on my personal day to day life. I hope to maintain that balance and also to work a little less hard and enjoy that personal day to day life. But I hope I can keep being a comedian and writer until I die and it'd be nice if that doesn't happen for a few decades.
Richard Herring - What Is Love Anyway - Whelan's January 6th. Tickets 16.50