Irish News Q and A

Arts Q&A: Richard Herring on Billy Connolly, Life Of Brian and Pompeii

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. THis week, writer and stand-up comedian Richard Herring

Comedian Richard Herring is appearing at this year's online Out To Lunch Festival next week

1. When did you think about a career in comedy and what were your first steps into it?
I was always into comedy and wanted to be a writer or a clown from a very early age. And from the age of about 12 dreamed of being a comedian. But I grew up in Somerset in the 70s and 80s and it seemed like an impossibility. But I was writing comedy sketches at school and got heavily involved in comedy and drama at university and it went well enough for me to decide to move to London and try stand-up and writing for the radio and see where it led me. I gave myself five years and then I'd see how I was doing. At the end of five years we had our own TV pilot, so it seemed worth persisting with.
2. Best gigs you've been to?
Billy Connolly at the Hammersmith Apollo was a masterclass in making a huge room feel intimate. He is the greatest storyteller and made the whole night feel spontaneous and special. He talked honestly about his incredible life but even though some of it was about experiences none of us would ever have he made it feel accessible. He is an incredible comedian.
3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

The last dance at our wedding was The Luckiest by Ben Folds. Would have been pretty cool if he'd turned up to perform in person.
4. The record you'd take to a desert island and why?
The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow from Annie. The kids got into this at the start of lockdown and would sing and dance to it at breakfast time. It was such a positive ray of light at a dark time that I think it would provide similar hope in a shipwreck.
5. And the book you'd take?

Rome by Mary Beard. It's really good, but it's really long and I haven't had time to sit down and read the whole thing in the several years I've had it. And I'd really like to know everything about ancient Rome so that would be a good chance to properly study
6. Top three films and why?
This Is Spinal Tap because it's the funniest film of all time and revolutionised comedy in the improvisational way it was created.
Life of Brian because it's all the Pythons at the height of their powers and meant a lot to me when I was 14 (and I had to sneak in to see it because my parents wouldn't let me).
The Muppet Christmas Carol because of Michael Caine acting it perfectly straight against Beaker (and all the other muppets). He genuinely deserved an Oscar (and Beaker did too).
7. Worst film you've seen?
Jack and Jill by Adam Sandler is a particularly enjoyable low, with some fairly stiff competition in his oeuvre.
8. Favourite authors?
Kurt Vonnegut; Margaret Atwood; Jonathan Ames.
9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?
Self-playing snooker in which I play myself at snooker to find which Me is the best. I support York City FC because that is the closest team to where I was born and it's a life lesson to have to get behind a team that so consistently disappoint.
10. Ideal holiday destination?
Pompeii – a magical place which I've been to three times and hope to visit many more.
11. Pet hates?
The sound of polystyrene being rubbed against itself or anything else.
12. What's your favourite:
Dinner? A good Thai curry
Dessert? A Solero
Drink? Diet ginger beer
13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?
My wife. Through marriage.
14. Is there a God?
There might be, but I don't think any of the human guesses as to what God might be have come anywhere close. Personally I believe that we are an accident, which explains why it's all so screwed up. Can someone perfect create something so imperfect? I don't think so. And why would they?
15. Anything to add?
I am doing loads of stuff on my Twitch channel at including a ventriloquist show. My podcast RHLSTP goes out every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.
:: Richard Herring's The Problem With Men will be live streamed as part of the Belfast Out To Lunch Festival on Wednesday January 27 at 8pm. The event is free but to book tickets and to view the full festival programme visit