Epping Forest Guardian interview
Love's labours aren't lost on comedian Richard Herring
11:06am Thursday 30th June 2011
* By George Nott »
Two deadlines for Richard Herring’s comedy series script have passed already and a third is looming up ahead. Then there’s an hour’s worth of material to put together for his Edinburgh Fringe show and 40 gigs to get through before he goes. Plus his blog (updated every day without fail since 2002), tweeting to his 58,000 followers and the weekly podcast. But first, this interview.
“It’s all a bit relentless,“ he says frantically, “but I need to be forced by deadlines and fear to do anything.“
Nearly three weeks since the original deadline, the manuscript for the 43-year-old’s TV series about cave tour guides is looking a bit thin. He has about 20 pages. He needs at least 60. But he’s not breaking sweat – he knows the funny will come.
It’s been coming for a long time, first with former comedy partner Stewart Lee helping to create Alan Partridge, and again with Stewart came cult favourite This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Since a cordial end to the partnership the Somerset-raised, Oxford-educated comic has written and performed critically acclaimed stand-up shows in all but one year since 2000. This August will see his 20th Fringe performance.
His new show, What Is Love, Anyway, which gets a preview at Ye Olde Rose and Crown as part of the Walthamstow Comedy Festival this week, has a concept but few concrete crackers – yet.
“No time is the right time to write, so I create a lot on stage,“ says Richard, “Over the course of 40 or so warm-up gigs if you talk stuff over, something will hit and strike. You work out which bits work.
“Right now I have lots of things I want to talk about, but no jokes.“
Even for such an experienced comic, a gig without gags must be a bit of a concern?
“You can prepare too much,“ explains Richard, in a calmer tone. “The bits you haven’t written down usually work better. But you don’t know whether a joke is going to work anywhere else. It may never work again. You need to be prepared to fail. That’s why you need so many gigs to see what gets a laugh most of the time.
“Having said that, I really like it when you do something that only one person in the audience really laughs at. No one else may get it, but they piss themselves. I like the thought it will stay with that person, even if everyone else forgets about it.“
In What Is Love, Anyway Richard looks at love – but don’t be thinking he’s gone all soppy.
Remember, this is the man who dissected Jesus and his followers in last year’s Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming and grew a toothbrush ’tache for 2009’s Hitler Moustache.
“There’s loads of stand-up about love and relationships and stuff,“ he explains, “I wanted to give it a new angle.
“I like to ask difficult questions. It’s questioning the idea of love. With love there’s a lot of artifice and lies; seeing things that aren’t really there.
“I want an audience to surprise themselves – the set comes to some interesting conclusions."