My Best Teacher in Times Educational Supplement
My best teacher - Richard Herring
Features | Published in TES Magazine on 21 January, 2011 | By: Janet Murray
He was an 'outgoing nerd' and his dad was the head, so school was a funny time for the comedian, but Latin saved the day
I grew up in Cheddar, a small town in Somerset where my parents were both teachers. My mum was my teacher at primary school, which wasn't as bad as it sounds. Lots of children's mums worked as dinner ladies or helped out at my school, so being taught by my mum wasn't too shameful. In fact, I think it almost gave me an aura of protection from any teasing or bullying.
There was more potential for embarrassment at my comprehensive, the Kings of Wessex School in Cheddar, where my dad was headmaster. But somehow we managed to keep home and school separate, even when my dad taught me A-level maths. I was quite a cheeky kid and I think some of my teachers were exasperated by me, so if anything I was more of an embarrassment to him.
I was lucky enough to have loads of brilliant teachers during my time at school, but one that really sticks in my mind is Mr Moore, who taught Latin. Being funny was always very important to me and although he was very strict he had a glint in his eye and a mordant sense of humour that really appealed to me.
What was amazing was how this white-haired guy, who was probably in his 50s at the time, could get a group of 15-year-olds so interested in this dry, dead language. He had this ability to bring the subject to life and we were all keen to impress him.
I became obsessed with Pompeii and the history of the Romans and this was definitely instrumental in my decision to study history at university. I even went to Pompeii in my gap year. He used to get us to play Roman citizens and act out scenes from history. I still remember the phrases he made us shout out in those scenes.
I was quite a nerdy teenager. Because my dad was the headmaster I couldn't really flout the uniform rules. I carried a briefcase, like Will from (Channel 4 comedy show) The Inbetweeners and I wasn't very confident with girls. I didn't really see the point of pop music, although I did get into punk towards the end of school because I thought it would be a cool thing to do.
But I like to think I was quite an outgoing nerd. Academically, I was bright and tended to stick with the geeky kids. Although we weren't really badly behaved, we were quite subversive. We would be a bit cheeky to some of the teachers, but never took it too far. I think we probably annoyed some of the other kids because we were clever enough to mess around a bit and still do well.
I was the sensible one. I didn't do drugs and I would always be the one saying, "I don't think we should do that" when my friends suggested something that could get us into hot water.
Although I did get into trouble a few times, I never ended up in my dad's office. He would usually get one of his deputies to deal with me. Probably the naughtiest thing I did was carve "sex is fun" into a wooden desk and fill it with blue ink when I was about 13 or 14. It was the true mark of a boy who had absolutely no sexual experience at all.
My interest in comedy started to grow at secondary school. In the sixth form we started our own subversive school magazine. We would gently mock my dad and other teachers, but when we started to take it too far it almost got banned. We also started putting on "underground" comedy revues that were equally subversive. In one memorable show I premiered my own comedy song called "My Penis can Sing", which is quite embarrassing to look back on.
My secondary school has a small theatre and I go back every year to do a gig. I'm 43 and it's weird thinking that when I was there, none of the pupils there now were even born.
Richard Herring is a stand-up comedian. His shows include 'Talking Cock' and 'Hitler Moustache', which is now available on DVD. His latest show, 'Christ on a Bike', is now touring the UK. Visit www.richardherring.com for details. He was talking to Janet Murray.