Interview with Richard Herring
Posted by TNT Admin at Oct 31 2011, 04:23 PM
The outspoken stand-up tells us why his shows never win awards and why slagging off other comics can be a force for good
In your 2010 Edinburgh show, Christ On A Bike, you joke: ¬ďHow many weeks would you have to attend Catholic mass and receive Holy Communion before you ate an entire Jesus?¬Ē Did that upset any Christians?
It¬ís a silly observation but it¬ís looking at an important point: if transubstantiation [the Catholic belief that mass turns bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ] is real, what does that actually mean? Is it literal or metaphorical? That¬ís just the pendantry of my character trying to work that out. Anyway, Christianity is about turning the other cheek, accepting criticism and rising above it, and most Christians do that anyway. Nearly all the criticism I¬íve had for this show comes from people who haven¬ít seen it. I think it¬ís actually a very pro-Jesus show. I¬ím quite a big fan of Jesus, I just don¬ít happen to believe that he¬ís the son of God.
There¬ís a YouTube video of you putting a drunk heckler in his place. It¬ís possibly the best heckler slap-down ever.
He¬ís was disrupting the show to such an extent that I couldn¬ít help but make the show about him. If you¬íre up against someone who¬ís really drunk then it¬ís fairly easy to take them on. He was actually waiting for me outside at the end of the show and he was ready to hit me but he was so drunk he was incapable of doing anything.If you do this job long enough, you get used to it happening. And it¬ís not like you want it to happen, but if you¬íve done your set 100 times and something different happens, it gives you a chance to ad lib a whole routine.
You once called Peter Kay an ¬ďoleaginous ***¬Ē. Does being that outspoken ever get you into trouble?
Did I really? That¬ís very rude of me! A lot of these things are part of the comedy routine and the joke is on me as much as the other person. It¬ís one of the last taboos, to not say bad things about other comedians. But if other comedians are doing something you think is wrong then I think you should say something.
Like when you spoke out about Ricky Gervais using the word ¬Ďmong¬í?
I just suggested it was a bad thing to do. I work a lot with Scope, a disabled charity, and I know how much effect that word has. It¬ís not the word itself, it¬ís the way it¬ís used. There¬ís a lot of comedy that tackles disability in a good way and Ricky¬ís done a lot of that in the past, which is why I think it¬ís a bit odd that he¬ís said this now. His defence was that the word is not used derogatively against people with Down¬ís Syndrome anymore. But that¬ís just not true, is it? And then he put up pictures of himself gurning in a way that suggests to me that he¬ís being rude towards disabled people. He¬ís welcome to do that but I¬ím just surprised because he¬ís an intelligent comedian. Comedy should be punching up, not downwards. There are so many powerful people we should taking the piss out of. I don¬ít like it when comedians punch downwards.
Your book, How Not To Grow Up, was a hilarious look at turning 40 and realising that you were very immature. Then you stopped drinking and met the love of your life. Are you mature now?
Now I¬ím concentrating more on my work and I¬ím much happier in myself. In the past four years, I¬íve done four of the best stand-up shows I¬íve ever done and I¬íve got an audience that¬ís growing organically all the time, which is lovely. It¬ís good to be getting on with my work when five to six years ago I would be out trying to get drunk and meeting women.
You¬íve done 20 Edinburgh festivals in 25 years but you¬íve never won the big comedy prize there. Why is that?
I¬íve never really won any awards. I¬íve never even been nominated. But now I¬ím not even eligible because I¬ím too famous which makes me laugh when I see some of the people who end up winning. The first award I ever won was the Chortle Award for the best internet program earlier this year. None of my live shows or any of the scripts I¬íve written has ever won anything. When I wrote How Not To Grow Up, I felt like I was being passed by. It can get to you, then you get to a point where you realise it doesn¬ít matter. It¬ís about balance: getting enough people along to see your shows but retaining enough anonymity to go about your daily life without being recognised. When I¬íve been in a room or walked along the street with people like Ricky Gervais or Frank Skinner, they can¬ít go five yards without someone stopping them or talking to them in a cafe. I can still earwig in on people¬ís conversations in coffee shops. As a writer that¬ís very important.
Christ On A Bike out on DVD on Oct 31 through PIAS comedy.