After a bumpy 2014, I managed to steady the ship a little in 2015, but it came with some big changes in my life. I didn’t perform at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time since 2003 and possibly more importantly I became a father. My daughter Phoebe Doris Joy Herring was born on the 10th February, immediately beginning to pay for herself by giving me an opening routine for my new stand up show Happy Now?
In January I had my brain scanned. But there was nothing (exactly) wrong with my brain, it was all for the good of science.
The Lord of the Dance Settee tour continued from February through to June and my audience numbers held up and I think it was my most consistently well performed show. I summed up my feelings about it in my blog after the final show. We recorded the DVD at the Bloomsbury in May and it’s available, as usual at www.gofasterstripe.com.
RHLSTP continued and seems to be gathering momentum. We ran a kickstarter campaign to pay for the filming of both series 7 and series 8 this year and raised over £80,000 to do so, which was phenomenal and rather touching. A campaign to raise a million pounds for Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker was not as successful (though over £100,000 was pledged). The seventh series was recorded in June and July and got off to a tremendous start with guest Bob Mortimer. Other guests included Louis Theroux and Johnny Vegas. Series 8 ran from September through to November and there were more top guests including Eddie Izzard, David Mitchell and Jack Whitehall. RHLSTP was nominated for the Chortle internet award, but for the first time in its existence I did not win.
In June, I went to see an amateur production of my 1996 play, “Punk’s Not Dead”. I really enjoyed it
Instead of going to the Edinburgh Fringe I decided to stay at home and so something much more difficult. I performed all 11 of my old one man shows, plus the new one, Happy Now? at the Leicester Square Theatre over six weekends in August and September. Although it was tough to learn the 18 hours of material (as well as write a new show) it was an enormously rewarding experience. I got an average audience of just under 300, sold out the new show and didn’t make any serious screw ups. Without the competition, stress, journalists or financial worries I was able to enjoy myself and get home by 9pm to see my wife. I recorded a podcast series to accompany the run and you can also buy the audio versions of the first 10 shows (show 11 is on the Lord of the Dance Settee DVD and the Happy Now? Show will be on that DVD next year). Thanks to everyone who came to see this, especially the 29 who bought tickets to all the shows and received one of my extraordinary handmade T shirts. It helped to remind me that I am actually quite good at this job.
I also enjoyed continuing to work on the new show throughout the autumn and the first few tour dates went well and mainly sold out. The tour continues from January to June 2016.
My Metro column continued (and is approaching its 200th
piece) and Warming Up continued past its
13th birthday in written form (though the audio is on a break whilst
Robot Voice get the blancmange out of its circuit ducts). I even managed to get
in a few more frames of Me1 Vs Me2 snooker. In the autumn a compered most of
the run of a weekly light night stand up gig at the Albert Hall (small room). I did less radio than usual this year, but appeared on Listomania and recorded an episode of "Don't Make Me Laugh" which will broadcast in 2016.
I didn’t get much writing done, still licking my wounds from the failure of “I Killed Rasputin”. I decided against writing a sitcom pilot about a UKIP-style leader who becomes Prime Minister, but got another commission to write a sitcom about alternate universes, but didn’t get far in writing it (in this universe at least). My daughter has forced me to consider carefully how much time I spend on work and which jobs I do, but I still managed to keep up a good balance of free and paid work. I am loving being a dad. It’s a huge change, but a good one. Am I happy now? Come and see the tour to find out.
I hope that in 2016 we might finally get back to making some AIOTMs. But we will see…
My lack of celebrity status was confirmed by the fact that I got through the whole of 2016 without dying. It’s a real kick in the guts if I am honest with you.
But aside from the world sliding towards oblivion and the loss of some much-loved and super-talented people (as well as my lovely cat Liono), things moved mainly in the right direction career-wise.
The most notable success was that we managed to raise over £180,000 via Kickstarter to fund two more series of RHLSTP and six video episodes of AIOTM. The team had got back together in January to finally commit the Motorcycle Clothing Shop Sketch to film.
And then, after an incredible late spurt, the £100,000 goal was reached on the kickstarter.
We began shooting the series in September, with the videos pegged for release in Spring 2017. But we also recorded bonus audio episodes in the traditional half-arsed last-minute spirit. Farage in the Garage in episode 4 was perhaps the highlight.
And thanks to the generosity of the fans of the show we were able to film another 36 episodes of the Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, (also available on audio) with guests including Tim Minchin, Vic Reeves, Armando Iannucci and Dawn French. It’s still incredibly good fun to do this show and two more series are already planned for 2017.
Throughout the Spring I continued my tour of Happy Now? with several big sold out gigs and my biggest ever live audience for the DVD record at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. You can buy the show as a DVD or download here.
In the summer and autumn I did some preview gigs for the new tour, The Best, which will be touring the UK in the Spring and comprises of 90 minutes of my favourite routines from my 12 solo stand up shows.
I continued to dabble with acting. The two short films I recorded in 2015 were both released. Mosquito and
While You Were Away. The latter of these has enjoyed some success at award ceremonies, including winning the Audience Award at the prestigious ECU festival.
In September I played a small role in Ross Noble’s Sky TV Halloween short, The Catchment.
And then in October I had a bigger part in the short film “Clean” which should be out in 2017.
Once again I took a break from the Edinburgh Fringe, my first two year absence since the early 90s. But I should be returning next year for my 30th anniversary and a show about turning 50 called "Oh Frig, I'm 50!"
In July I achieved an ambition by having Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker recognised for what it really is – transgressive art – when I was asked to appear at the Tempting Failure Festival in Dalston alongside artists who pulled children’s teeth out of their genitals or lip-synced karaoke with their vaginas.
My work proved too controversial for many of the art community and was the only artist to get multiple walk-outs, but it led to me getting one of my favourite reviews ever.
The podcast itself went on hiatus after this triumph but will surely return.
And my run at the Metro newspaper finally came to an end after nearly five years and 242 columns.
It was the right time to
leave it, but I have really appreciated the kind comments I’ve had for it and
been surprised by how many different kinds of people have liked my witterings. Thanks for reading it, if you did.
Unusually I didn’t do any panel shows on TV or radio this year (as far as I recall) but my wife and I were last minute replacements for John Stapleton and Lynn Foulds-Wood on Pointless Celebrities. Did I finally win a trophy? The episode will be aired in 2017.
Some positive news on the script writing front. Radio 4 have commissioned 4 episodes of my sitcom Relativity, which should air in the summer of 2017 and Channel 4 are letting me make a 10 minute taster tape of my alternate Universe sitcom, Everything Happens For No Reason, in order to help them decide if they want to make a series.
Finally, a couple of honourable mentions in end of year Best of lists.
RHLSTP was picked for the Guardian top 50 podcasts.
Bruce Dessau chose Happy Now? as one of his top 20 gigs of the year.
This was another hectic year, where workwise things continued to move slowly (maybe too slowly, I am getting older and running out of track) in the right direction and there were more big life changes.
"As It Occurred To Me" continued it’s sick-making writing and recording process. I think we did well given the limitations of time and budget, but it’s obviously a bit hit and miss. But we created a huge amount of comedy with the long versions of the episodes running to about an hour each.
It was finally released in the autumn. You can see it (and my other podcasts) on my Youtube page.
I had fun doing the old material once again and it stayed fresh for me throughout the tour.
During the run I got to play self-playing snooker at the Reading Hexagon in front of a confused interval crowd and then due to controversy over the result a rematch was played during the interval at the St Albans arena. This means I technically made some money playing self-playing snooker this year. Which is one in the eye for my wife.
At the end of January we recorded the taster tape for Everything Happens (For No Reason), starring Noel Fielding, Jessica Knappett and Ben Bailey-Smith. I played an incredulous man in the background who had two lines, but one of them was cut. Al Campbell directed. Everyone seemed really happy with what we’d created, but Channel 4 felt unsure of where it was heading, so asked me to write a second script, which I completed in August. We are still waiting to hear their decision on it all. I am hopeful that Channel 4 will do it (and the cast are all very keen), but if not we will be able to take it elsewhere. It’s the best sitcom that I have written in my opinion, but the slow process of getting it to screen (or not) reminds me why I have concentrated on podcasts in recent years.
In March we recorded a four-part series of a “new” sitcom Relativity (very much the bastard child of You Can Choose Your Friends) for Radio 4. The cast was phenomenal and included Alison Steadman, Phil Davis and Emily Berrington. With me as an incredulous man. The show was broadcast in September and it seemed to go well. Radio 4 have asked for another series in 2018.
RHLSTP series 11 was recorded in June and July, with guests including Paul Merton, Adam Buxton, Sara Pascoe and a mildly awkward reunion for Collings and Herrin. Series 12 following in October and November with Armando Iannucci, Richard Osman and Ed Miliband. We were able to fund this once again via Kickstarter campaigns and the runaway success of the Emergency Questions book. Sales were so good that I wrote a second book, “Christmas Emergency Questions” which came out in November. We also released an Emergency Questions App for Apple and Android and even an Alexa skill.
Along with the kickstarters and the badge scheme that have served us so well with these podcasts, we were asked by a new service called Drip (run by kickstarter) to be one of only 100 projects world wide to try out their monthly subscriber model. After a month we had over 1000 people backing us and with the monthly badger and Emergency Questions book money I think it’s likely we can pay for RHLSTP in 2018 without another big campaign. But it would be great if we could earn enough to do ever more ambitious stuff. So join us if you like and get loads of cool extras and help us make more podcasts.
Once the tour was over I started work on my new stand up show, “Oh Frig, I’m 50!” which came together pretty quickly and had a very successful run at the Pleasance One at the Edinburgh Fringe, my 40th show at my 30th anniversary Fringe. It was good to be back, though also good to know that I don’t have to go. I toured the show to Halifax, Manchester and Bristol, but the main bulk of the tour comes in 2018.
I also recorded four Edinburgh Fringe Podcasts with some great guests, including comedy heroes the Doug Anthony All-Stars and possibly the funniest man in the country right now, James Acaster.
Not much TV work this year. I had a mildly humiliating encounter with Michael Portillo on the already embarrassing This Week (I didn’t get over the shame of appearing in a sketch with Nigel Farage) and an exciting, but ultimately disappointing appearance on Pointless Celebrities (recorded last year) where Citizen Smith and his daughter knocked my wife and I out in the head to head, by just two points in the final category. I was also on Sunday Brunch, but I tried to keep my head down and just get drunk.
And two (or three) massive bits of personal news – the family moved out of London in July. We have relocated to Hertfordshire, though delays with building work meant that we did not actually get into the house until September and only by Christmas was it feeling like a home.
And because moving house wasn’t stressful enough on October 5th my wife gave birth to our second child Ernest Christopher Patrick Herring (his first Edinburgh show will be called “The Ernest Herring Way”). We foolishly also got a new puppy called Wolfie, who we had planned to have in the house in July so we could train her and settle her in, but who also turned up in September.
But life in the countryside is going well. We have a big real fire and are about twenty metres from a field of horses and I am not only not missing London, but feeling mildly aggrieved to have to go back there every now and again for work and to ask Stewart Lee if he has any cocaine.
After all that I took it easy in December, only appearing on Andy Parsons’ Slacktivist Podcast.
So I feel hopeful for the new year as me and Chris Evans (not that one) seem to be part of an elite group who are managing to make podcasts pay (if only for themselves). The possibility of the Channel 4 sitcom and a TV version of Emergency Questions hang in the air. Only those of you reading this in the future will know if these are yet more false hopes or if they have come to fruition. Come back and let us know if not, then I won’t waste any time trying.