After a bumpy 2014, I managed to steady the ship a little in 2015, but it came with some big changes in my life. I didn’t perform at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time since 2003 and possibly more importantly I became a father. My daughter Phoebe Doris Joy Herring was born on the 10th February, immediately beginning to pay for herself by giving me an opening routine for my new stand up show Happy Now?
In January I had my brain scanned. But there was nothing (exactly) wrong with my brain, it was all for the good of science.
The Lord of the Dance Settee tour continued from February through to June and my audience numbers held up and I think it was my most consistently well performed show. I summed up my feelings about it in my blog after the final show. We recorded the DVD at the Bloomsbury in May and it’s available, as usual at www.gofasterstripe.com.
RHLSTP continued and seems to be gathering momentum. We ran a kickstarter campaign to pay for the filming of both series 7 and series 8 this year and raised over £80,000 to do so, which was phenomenal and rather touching. A campaign to raise a million pounds for Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker was not as successful (though over £100,000 was pledged). The seventh series was recorded in June and July and got off to a tremendous start with guest Bob Mortimer. Other guests included Louis Theroux and Johnny Vegas. Series 8 ran from September through to November and there were more top guests including Eddie Izzard, David Mitchell and Jack Whitehall. RHLSTP was nominated for the Chortle internet award, but for the first time in its existence I did not win.
In June, I went to see an amateur production of my 1996 play, “Punk’s Not Dead”. I really enjoyed it
Instead of going to the Edinburgh Fringe I decided to stay at home and so something much more difficult. I performed all 11 of my old one man shows, plus the new one, Happy Now? at the Leicester Square Theatre over six weekends in August and September. Although it was tough to learn the 18 hours of material (as well as write a new show) it was an enormously rewarding experience. I got an average audience of just under 300, sold out the new show and didn’t make any serious screw ups. Without the competition, stress, journalists or financial worries I was able to enjoy myself and get home by 9pm to see my wife. I recorded a podcast series to accompany the run and you can also buy the audio versions of the first 10 shows (show 11 is on the Lord of the Dance Settee DVD and the Happy Now? Show will be on that DVD next year). Thanks to everyone who came to see this, especially the 29 who bought tickets to all the shows and received one of my extraordinary handmade T shirts. It helped to remind me that I am actually quite good at this job.
I also enjoyed continuing to work on the new show throughout the autumn and the first few tour dates went well and mainly sold out. The tour continues from January to June 2016.
My Metro column continued (and is approaching its 200th
piece) and Warming Up continued past its
13th birthday in written form (though the audio is on a break whilst
Robot Voice get the blancmange out of its circuit ducts). I even managed to get
in a few more frames of Me1 Vs Me2 snooker. In the autumn a compered most of
the run of a weekly light night stand up gig at the Albert Hall (small room). I did less radio than usual this year, but appeared on Listomania and recorded an episode of "Don't Make Me Laugh" which will broadcast in 2016.
I didn’t get much writing done, still licking my wounds from the failure of “I Killed Rasputin”. I decided against writing a sitcom pilot about a UKIP-style leader who becomes Prime Minister, but got another commission to write a sitcom about alternate universes, but didn’t get far in writing it (in this universe at least). My daughter has forced me to consider carefully how much time I spend on work and which jobs I do, but I still managed to keep up a good balance of free and paid work. I am loving being a dad. It’s a huge change, but a good one. Am I happy now? Come and see the tour to find out.
I hope that in 2016 we might finally get back to making some AIOTMs. But we will see…
My lack of celebrity status was confirmed by the fact that I got through the whole of 2016 without dying. It’s a real kick in the guts if I am honest with you.
But aside from the world sliding towards oblivion and the loss of some much-loved and super-talented people (as well as my lovely cat Liono), things moved mainly in the right direction career-wise.
The most notable success was that we managed to raise over £180,000 via Kickstarter to fund two more series of RHLSTP and six video episodes of AIOTM. The team had got back together in January to finally commit the Motorcycle Clothing Shop Sketch to film.
And then, after an incredible late spurt, the £100,000 goal was reached on the kickstarter.
We began shooting the series in September, with the videos pegged for release in Spring 2017. But we also recorded bonus audio episodes in the traditional half-arsed last-minute spirit. Farage in the Garage in episode 4 was perhaps the highlight.
And thanks to the generosity of the fans of the show we were able to film another 36 episodes of the Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, (also available on audio) with guests including Tim Minchin, Vic Reeves, Armando Iannucci and Dawn French. It’s still incredibly good fun to do this show and two more series are already planned for 2017.
Throughout the Spring I continued my tour of Happy Now? with several big sold out gigs and my biggest ever live audience for the DVD record at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. You can buy the show as a DVD or download here.
In the summer and autumn I did some preview gigs for the new tour, The Best, which will be touring the UK in the Spring and comprises of 90 minutes of my favourite routines from my 12 solo stand up shows.
I continued to dabble with acting. The two short films I recorded in 2015 were both released. Mosquito and
While You Were Away. The latter of these has enjoyed some success at award ceremonies, including winning the Audience Award at the prestigious ECU festival.
In September I played a small role in Ross Noble’s Sky TV Halloween short, The Catchment.
And then in October I had a bigger part in the short film “Clean” which should be out in 2017.
Once again I took a break from the Edinburgh Fringe, my first two year absence since the early 90s. But I should be returning next year for my 30th anniversary and a show about turning 50 called "Oh Frig, I'm 50!"
In July I achieved an ambition by having Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker recognised for what it really is – transgressive art – when I was asked to appear at the Tempting Failure Festival in Dalston alongside artists who pulled children’s teeth out of their genitals or lip-synced karaoke with their vaginas.
My work proved too controversial for many of the art community and was the only artist to get multiple walk-outs, but it led to me getting one of my favourite reviews ever.
The podcast itself went on hiatus after this triumph but will surely return.
And my run at the Metro newspaper finally came to an end after nearly five years and 242 columns.
It was the right time to
leave it, but I have really appreciated the kind comments I’ve had for it and
been surprised by how many different kinds of people have liked my witterings. Thanks for reading it, if you did.
Unusually I didn’t do any panel shows on TV or radio this year (as far as I recall) but my wife and I were last minute replacements for John Stapleton and Lynn Foulds-Wood on Pointless Celebrities. Did I finally win a trophy? The episode will be aired in 2017.
Some positive news on the script writing front. Radio 4 have commissioned 4 episodes of my sitcom Relativity, which should air in the summer of 2017 and Channel 4 are letting me make a 10 minute taster tape of my alternate Universe sitcom, Everything Happens For No Reason, in order to help them decide if they want to make a series.
Finally, a couple of honourable mentions in end of year Best of lists.
RHLSTP was picked for the Guardian top 50 podcasts.
Bruce Dessau chose Happy Now? as one of his top 20 gigs of the year.
This was another hectic year, where workwise things continued to move slowly (maybe too slowly, I am getting older and running out of track) in the right direction and there were more big life changes.
"As It Occurred To Me" continued it’s sick-making writing and recording process. I think we did well given the limitations of time and budget, but it’s obviously a bit hit and miss. But we created a huge amount of comedy with the long versions of the episodes running to about an hour each.
It was finally released in the autumn. You can see it (and my other podcasts) on my Youtube page.
I had fun doing the old material once again and it stayed fresh for me throughout the tour.
During the run I got to play self-playing snooker at the Reading Hexagon in front of a confused interval crowd and then due to controversy over the result a rematch was played during the interval at the St Albans arena. This means I technically made some money playing self-playing snooker this year. Which is one in the eye for my wife.
At the end of January we recorded the taster tape for Everything Happens (For No Reason), starring Noel Fielding, Jessica Knappett and Ben Bailey-Smith. I played an incredulous man in the background who had two lines, but one of them was cut. Al Campbell directed. Everyone seemed really happy with what we’d created, but Channel 4 felt unsure of where it was heading, so asked me to write a second script, which I completed in August. We are still waiting to hear their decision on it all. I am hopeful that Channel 4 will do it (and the cast are all very keen), but if not we will be able to take it elsewhere. It’s the best sitcom that I have written in my opinion, but the slow process of getting it to screen (or not) reminds me why I have concentrated on podcasts in recent years.
In March we recorded a four-part series of a “new” sitcom Relativity (very much the bastard child of You Can Choose Your Friends) for Radio 4. The cast was phenomenal and included Alison Steadman, Phil Davis and Emily Berrington. With me as an incredulous man. The show was broadcast in September and it seemed to go well. Radio 4 have asked for another series in 2018.
RHLSTP series 11 was recorded in June and July, with guests including Paul Merton, Adam Buxton, Sara Pascoe and a mildly awkward reunion for Collings and Herrin. Series 12 following in October and November with Armando Iannucci, Richard Osman and Ed Miliband. We were able to fund this once again via Kickstarter campaigns and the runaway success of the Emergency Questions book. Sales were so good that I wrote a second book, “Christmas Emergency Questions” which came out in November. We also released an Emergency Questions App for Apple and Android and even an Alexa skill.
Along with the kickstarters and the badge scheme that have served us so well with these podcasts, we were asked by a new service called Drip (run by kickstarter) to be one of only 100 projects world wide to try out their monthly subscriber model. After a month we had over 1000 people backing us and with the monthly badger and Emergency Questions book money I think it’s likely we can pay for RHLSTP in 2018 without another big campaign. But it would be great if we could earn enough to do ever more ambitious stuff. So join us if you like and get loads of cool extras and help us make more podcasts.
Once the tour was over I started work on my new stand up show, “Oh Frig, I’m 50!” which came together pretty quickly and had a very successful run at the Pleasance One at the Edinburgh Fringe, my 40th show at my 30th anniversary Fringe. It was good to be back, though also good to know that I don’t have to go. I toured the show to Halifax, Manchester and Bristol, but the main bulk of the tour comes in 2018.
I also recorded four Edinburgh Fringe Podcasts with some great guests, including comedy heroes the Doug Anthony All-Stars and possibly the funniest man in the country right now, James Acaster.
Not much TV work this year. I had a mildly humiliating encounter with Michael Portillo on the already embarrassing This Week (I didn’t get over the shame of appearing in a sketch with Nigel Farage) and an exciting, but ultimately disappointing appearance on Pointless Celebrities (recorded last year) where Citizen Smith and his daughter knocked my wife and I out in the head to head, by just two points in the final category. I was also on Sunday Brunch, but I tried to keep my head down and just get drunk.
And two (or three) massive bits of personal news – the family moved out of London in July. We have relocated to Hertfordshire, though delays with building work meant that we did not actually get into the house until September and only by Christmas was it feeling like a home.
And because moving house wasn’t stressful enough on October 5th my wife gave birth to our second child Ernest Christopher Patrick Herring (his first Edinburgh show will be called “The Ernest Herring Way”). We foolishly also got a new puppy called Wolfie, who we had planned to have in the house in July so we could train her and settle her in, but who also turned up in September.
But life in the countryside is going well. We have a big real fire and are about twenty metres from a field of horses and I am not only not missing London, but feeling mildly aggrieved to have to go back there every now and again for work and to ask Stewart Lee if he has any cocaine.
After all that I took it easy in December, only appearing on Andy Parsons’ Slacktivist Podcast.
So I feel hopeful for the new year as me and Chris Evans (not that one) seem to be part of an elite group who are managing to make podcasts pay (if only for themselves). The possibility of the Channel 4 sitcom and a TV version of Emergency Questions hang in the air. Only those of you reading this in the future will know if these are yet more false hopes or if they have come to fruition. Come back and let us know if not, then I won’t waste any time trying.
What a year 2018 was. To be honest I am mainly surprised the planet Earth is still here, but plenty of time to see to that in 2019.
Whilst I attempted to get used to having a second child whilst living in a house that was a building site with a boiler that was trying to kill us with carbon monoxide, I did manage to get some work done.
The first half of the year was dominated by the Oh Frig I’m 50! Tour, which went well and sold more tickets than last year. I had resolved to sell over 100 tickets (or 100% of tickets if the venue was smaller as it was in one case) at every gig for the first time ever. Sadly I fell short by about 9 tickets in Scarborough. But I also had my biggest solo audience ever at the DVD record at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
I also recorded series 13 of RHLSTP with guests including Kathy Burke, Mackenzie Crook, Maria Bamford and most remarkably of all BRIAN BLESSED.
Meanwhile I attempted to write series 2 of Relativity, though cast availability meant that the original recording date was moved from June to November (the series was broadcast in January 2019).
The fate of Everything Happens (For No Reason) seemed to be sealed (in this Universe at least) when I had the worst meeting with TV executives of my life, but there’s still a chance it might happen some time. On the same day I had a meeting with Sphere publishing who agreed to publish a new book of 1001 Emergency Questions which would be in the proper shops and everything. I also wrote this in the Spring and it was published in October (reaching a high of 72 in the Amazon charts on Christmas Day).
The Go Faster Stripe Emergency Questions Book was nominated for a Chortle Award, but correctly did not win. I did pick up the Chortle Internet Award again though for RHLSTP.
I recorded an 8 minute set about Brexit for Matt Forde’s Unspun on Dave (you can watch that here) and also appeared on House of Games, where remarkably I was triumphant, winning my first TV quiz trophy. On March 20th I also recorded a set for “Comedians at the Kings”, a showcase for comics over 50 which is currently looking for a broadcaster.
On March 8th I did my usual International Men’s Day shenanigans, though this time asking people if they would donate to Refuge for my immense self-imposed trouble. Incredibly this raised over £150,000 in 48 hours. I was nominated for a Just Giving Award for this nonsense, though lost out to a bloke from TOWIE or something.
In an unprecedented step I took most of the summer off. Not only did I not go to the Edinburgh Fringe (except for one day right at the end to take part in a panel about podcasting at the Television Festival) I didn’t do any stand up gigs at all and hardly any writing. It was nice. I might do it again in another 30 years.
I used the time to hang out with my Celebrity friends. Like Bing.
I actually only did three more stand up gigs between June and the end of the year, but there was another series of RHLSTP starting in September with guests including Jonathan Ames, Terry Hall and Adam Buxton (who guested on the 200th main episode). The show (and also my DVD release) enjoyed fabulous support from Kickstarter campaigns (thanks also to the Badgers and Dripsters for their contributions) and handed out the best rewards yet. Including a RHLSTP Rubik’s Cube!
I didn’t manage too many more frames of Me1 vs Me2 Snooker as it’s increasingly difficult to get all the guys in one place on the same day, but fans of insane and boring podcasts/art projects were delighted to see the arrival of Stone Clearing With Richard Herring, a podcast in which I document my attempts to move all the stones off the field I walk my dog round.
In the latter part of the year I recorded an episode of Channel 5's Celebrity Game Night (which mainly involved getting drunk) and also worked in my first ever proper Writers’ Room for a new sitcom starring Tim from the Office, called Breeders. I was also charged with writing episode 8 and more or less finished my first draft by the end of the year. I should have put a Shrek in it.
I gave up drinking and eating chocolate in January and managed to keep that up for the entire year (aside from accidentally drinking a beer that I thought was a no-alcohol one in December). I lost a couple of stone by the summer, but my weight crept up a little in the latter half of the year. I also need to give up ice cream.
January saw the broadcast of the second series of Relativity, which seemed to go down well and was immediately recommissioned for a series of 6 which will go out in 2020. I continued working on Tim from the Office sitcom “Breeders”, but after writing two first drafts of the episode I’d been assigned, I was told it wasn’t what they were looking for and quite brutally let go. This dented my writing confidence a little, but luckily I had lots of other stuff to keep me occupied.
In January I also curated the Bristol Slapstick Festival and got to interview, amongst others, The Goodies, which was an absolute delight
RHLSTP went from strength to strength, making the move to Acast and attracting some big guests. The Richard E Grant episode was a particular delight to record, which made it surprising when he or his people decided that we were not allowed to put any of it out. I am not really sure why. But a great interview with Les Dennis made up for it. And we took RHLSTP on the road and I beat my record ever audience at the Birmingham Podcast Festival with 1100 sales, and then again in November topped that with over 1250 in in Glasgow. Guests included Michael Sheen, Matt Lucas. London Hughes, James Acaster, Grayson Perry, Tim Minchin, Charlie Brooker and Limmy. Another lost episode , by our own choice was recorded with Ricky Wilson in Leeds.
There was also an exhausting but successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe where we recorded 21 shows in 24 days. The Guardian dubbed me “The Best celebrity interviewer in the UK" and the Spectator called me "The Podcast King".
We raised funds for the podcasts with two kickstarter campaigns, one giving away stones from my stone-clearing field and signed snooker balls and the other introducing a RHLSTP Trump game which you can buy here.
Stone Clearing and Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker somehow continued (and the stone clearing podcast successfully stopped Brexit happening in 2019) and we filmed a documentary about stones and a special snooker tournament at the Cockpit Theatre in London to an audience of over 50 people. I was also delighted and honoured to be a guest on the No Such Thing As A Fish Podcast and to do mash up episode with Deborah Frances-White and the Guilty Feminist. I was also in an episode of You’re Dead To Me about Stonehenge.
In March I raised almost £130,000 for Refuge with another year of telling men when international men's day was. This time I also did scheduled tweets to remind them on November 19th and managed to raise almost £10,000 for CALM. The RHLSTP tour programme raised over £10,000 for Scope.
In August we launched a nothing like the Dennis the Menace fan club, badge and membership card and launched rhlstp.co.uk. The Drip website folded, with only our podcast seeming to have gathered any kind of following on it.
Notably I did next to no straight stand up gigs this year, the only one I can think of was a charity night in my local village hall to raise money for the nursery. Loved that though. I am sure I will be back with stand up before Oh Shit I'm 60!
I appeared on a couple of TV quiz shows: an as yet unbroadcast appearance on Tipping Point: Lucky Stars and a return to House of Games for a Champion of Champions edition. I won three of the five days and though I nearly threw it all away at the last second, managed to win the gold cup as the weekly winner. I also recorded an episode of Roast Battle, taking on the brilliant Sara Barron. This episode will go out in 2020.
The paperback version of Emergency Questions with 25 bonus questions was published in October. It was on sale for £3 at the Works come November.
In November we lost one of my best friends and a man who had a profound effect on my (and many others') career, the wonderful Tony Brennan. I was honoured to be asked to speak at the celebration of his life.
That put my minor setbacks this year into perspective.
Overall, in career terms it was a positive year, where I managed
to spend a bit more time with my family and there are a couple of exciting
projects on the horizon for 2020, so let’s see how that goes. That’s another
decade done and thirty years in professional showbusiness completed. So nearly halfway through my career.