Maxim interview

Richard Herring
Ten questions with Richard Herring (because we couldn’t think of 20)
A swift chat with the most somewhat-recognisable partly-unrecognised comedian on these shores, Mr Richard Herring...
By Stuart Messham

December 2010

1) On Wikipedia it says that you are described by the British Theatre Guide as "one of the leading hidden masters of modern British comedy". Does the hidden bit of that statement irritate you?
Not really. I think it’s good in many ways to be in the situation that I’m in. Lots of people are still paying to come and see me but lots of people still don’t know who I am. Which means I can go about my daily life without too much fuss. Imagine being Michael McIntyre – a chubby man currently revered as a God. His life must be more difficult now. I like a certain level of anonymity.
I’ve never won awards and I wasn’t in the Channel 4 top 100 comedians, so I think the people who like me are trying to keep me a secret! In the past few years things have moved up a gear and things are moving at a reasonably slow pace, which is good. I think.
In five years time I might look back at now and wish I had it back. Might.

2) What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? And which book have you read the most times?
I really like an American author called Jonathan Ames called What’s Not To Love: an honest look at his mildly perverted lifestyle, and I’m as much a pervert as him, so I enjoyed that.
I also love Charles Bukowski and Kurt Vonnegut.
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams is probably the comedy book I have read the most.

3) Most annoying and most exciting thing about modern technology.
It’s exciting for comedians to have lots of different outlets to produce lots of comedy in lots of different ways, and to have mediums free from censorship where comedians can put whatever they like on there with anyone telling you otherwise. Obviously, editing and censorship occurs on radio and television, so the internet gives you the opportunity to be desrestricted from that. I really like the connection you get with an audience.
The bad side, is you get certain idiots either obsessing over you or taking potshots at you.
I love the internet though. I’m on it too much. That’s the problem with comedians: We’re self-employed with a lot of time on our hands and it’s easy to waste that time.
I see so many people tapping away on smartphones when they’re travelling and moving from place to place and looking inwards rather than outwards, and I think we should be a bit concerned about that.

4) What’s your favourite websites?
Wikipedia is a great resource for a writer and a comedian because of its scope and its immediacy. I think Twitter is also a great resource to find people who will give you advice or you can follow people and really keep up on what’s going on in the world. It’s a great way of gathering news. I like the BBC and Chortle too, but, like i said, I sue Wikipedia and Twitter the most.

5) You helped create Alan Partridge. Which part was yours. And what was the funniest thing he ever did?
Me and Stew (Francis) basically wrote the first things he ever did. There’s an ongoing joke over what rights of ownership we have over him. I think, realistically, Steve Coogan came up with that character and him an Armando (Ianucci) nailed it. We wrote some of the first news sketches for the character but the rest of it was all Steve. I’m delighted to have been a part of it though and it’s great to have the development of that character on my CV.

6) Film part you’d have most liked to have played?
That’s a good question. My favourite film is Spinal Tap; I would loved to have been in that on some level. Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap would be my answer, but whether I could do it like Harry Shearer is debatable.

7) What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done on stage?
I cracked my rib in the stage show of We Need Answers. I had to jump up on a high stool and someone had moved it and couldn’t do any exercise for three months. Very annoying.

8) How much material that you think of and write down do you have to reject? What’s normally the reasoning and can you give us an example?
For a show you’re normally writing two hour’s worth of material for a one-hour show and you’ll hone it down for Edinburgh, but when you’re on tour you’ll begin to open it out again. You’ll use most things but it’s very hard to quantify. When I’m on tour I’ll change things constantly to either make them better or just because I’m bored of the way I’m delivering it.

9) What should be the punishment for people stealing jokes?
Seems weird to me that anyone would want to steal jokes but if they did the punishment would come to them with the embarrassment of people realising they’ve been lifting material. Sometimes one-liners can already have been done, so you’re in difficult territory there. Luckily, most of my stuff is different. It’s stuff that only I can do. In Christ From A Bike I recite the whole scene from the first testament and then do an acronym of it; if anyone manages to steal that routine I would probably have a certain amount of respect for them!

10) What would you be if you weren’t a comedian?
I don’t think I could do anything else. My whole family are teachers, so that may have been something I would have gone into. I think I’lll be okay though. Unless I have some horrific injury, then I think there’s more to come.