Guardian Family Values
My family values
Richard Herring, Comedian
* Interview by Chris Hall
* The Guardian, Saturday 21 March 2009
I wrote a sitcom based on my family. The parents in You Can Choose Your Friends were very much Mum and Dad but my brother wasn't like my brother, and he got quite annoyed because he thought I was saying that was what he was like. I was in awe of my older brother, but he was also quite a threatening figure - he used to beat me up.
I'm 41 and the youngest of three. My brother, David, 48, has a daughter, Emily, 18, and my sister, Jill, 46, has two sons - Andrew, 21, and Michael, 25 - and a daughter, Sarah, 22. It's been great seeing them grow up and being the cool uncle without all the hard work. It is weird to think that that generation has grown up and I haven't started yet.
My youngest nephew, Andrew, and I are pretty similar. He is the most likely to be a comedian or performer - he's cheeky, funny and likeable. When he was 14 or so I gave him the drugs talk, saying, "A bit of marijuana is OK, but don't touch any of the other stuff", but instead he just kept asking, "Have you had drugs?!" He's very sensible and I keep on putting my foot in it.
My dad is a retired headmaster and my mum is an ex-teacher. I was taught by both of them. Once a guy was kicking me after rugby and I said "Leave me alone or I'll get my dad on you!", which was the only time I broke the code.
My parents felt old-fashioned, growing up - they were quite disciplinarian. We went to church and had to learn music, but in hindsight it was a good thing. They are very fair-minded, sometimes ridiculously so. They were once burgled and thought that some cuff-links were stolen but then they found them and so they sent the money back to the insurance company.
My sister is much more emotive than me - she's very loud and outgoing. My sister's children are much more like friends to her than we were with our parents. There is a danger of being spoilt and expecting too much from life, but it's good to give them freedom and understanding.
My mum's father was working class and worked all his life in the construction industry. When he was a young man his father came home, grabbed his book and threw it in the fire saying, "You'll have no need for reading with what you do."
My 97-year-old grandma is amazing. She was fit and active till she was 90 but she no longer recognises anyone. She's a big figure in the family - a big cuddly, loving and loveable woman.
Dad saw my show where I talk about how much I love and respect him - I could barely continue when he was there in the front row. But then after the gig all he said was, "Ah well, I'll talk to you when you get home." It's that father-son thing where you don't go around hugging or kissing and saying I love you but you take it as read.
â€¢ The Headmaster's Son is on tour until April 25, see richardherring.com