Media Funhouse on AIOTM
Saturday, June 25, 2011
In Pod We Trust: five podcasts to which I am addicted (entries 4 & 5)
4. As It Occurs to Me: Richard Herring remains one of Britain’s busiest standups and also one of its most prolific podcasters. In my profile post on Herring, I discussed his other endeavors, but in this “short list” of recommended podcasts I had to include his sketch comedy show As It Occurs to Me, since it is, by turns, the most ambitious, the silliest, and, yes, the most imaginatively vulgar program I’ve heard in the decades since one could actually hear “the seven dirty words” on listener-sponsored Pacifica radio in NYC.
The show grew out of Herring’s twisted-history BBC program That Was Then, This Is Now, but it is a vast improvement on that show, in that AIOTM (as its title indicates) has no hard-and-fast concept behind it and is subject to no censorship whatsoever. It’s an exploration of the ideas and events that have occurred to Herring (and his cast) in the week prior to the program.
One warning: it might be quite puzzling to listen to the later episodes in any given series of the show before the earlier ones, so it might be best to start with the earliest shows. Herring is a master at crafting utterly absurd in-jokes and taglines that range from the sublime (I still salute him for referring to people’s children as their “sexcrement”) to the ridiculous (one season later, AIOTM still contains gag references to a skit that fell very flat a year ago, a goofy motorcycle-clothing store sketch).
Herring is ably abetted by his small cast of two actors (Emma Kennedy, Dan Tetsell) and a musician (Christian Reilly), but the show does seem to rise and fall on the twists and turns of his own fertile and warped imagination, and his ability to toss off lines and concepts that are better than some lesser standups’ entire acts. He also does this on the much more informal and quite often directionless podcast he does with TV/film critic Andrew Collins called Collings and Herrin.
As for the “dirty” side of the show: I have a pretty low tolerance for comedy that is obscene for the sheer sake of being obscene, but I do revere “dirty” humor that is surreal (as with Frank Zappa) or fucking brilliant (as with Cook and Moore’s inspired “Derek and Clive” LPs). Herring regularly plays with the notion of being puerile in his humor, but somehow keeps AIOTM and his standup from ever descending to the Howard Stern/Opie & Anthony level of unimaginative scatological humor.
Herring’s stage persona in his standup is often that of a chubby schlemiel, but in his podcasts and in certain of his themed standup shows, he is an agent provocateur who takes things just one step too far — and then muses about why he’s never on “the telly” anymore….
UPDATE: The only trouble with trying to chronicle any part of Richard Herring’s career is that the guy moves so damned fast. In the time that it took me to write and upload this blog entry, I found that he had recorded what he claims is definitely the very last AIOTM episode. He said that twice before, so perhaps we will see a return of the show, but he already has another short-term podcast he’s developing for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and he continues the sometimes hysterical, sometimes not-so-much, Collings and Herrin ’cast.
Frequency of podcast: a “season” of six episodes annually