Metro 36

Richard Herring: Being too uncool for school might not be such a bad thing

Revisiting the scene of a calamitous childhood face-fart has Metro's resident comedian Richard Herring wondering whether being cool is all itÂ’s cracked up to be.

This week, in what feels like a crunchingly inappropriate juxtaposition, I am bringing my bawdy, penis-based comedy show, Talking Cock, to LondonÂ’s swanky Purcell Room on the South Bank. ItÂ’s a venue named after EnglandÂ’s greatest composer and the worldÂ’s finest classical musicians have performed there but, for three nights only, it will play host to a virtuoso of the pink oboe.
Amazingly, it isnÂ’t the first time I have performed there. Back in the early 1980s, I played a trumpet solo in this very same room. I wasnÂ’t supposed to play a solo, I was part of a school brass band taking part in the finals of a big nationwide competition. But I was a poor musician (stuck at the back in the third trumpets) and usually just pretended to play, merrily pressing the valves and puffing out my cheeks. Keen to help my school to glory, for once, I was actually blowing (in both senses) and managed to hit a high and piercing note just after everyone else in the ensemble had finished. It was, if you will, my Purcell trumpet involuntary.
The shrieking, tuneless blast echoed around the auditorium thanks to its perfectly balanced acoustics. I can still remember the furious glares from the proper first trumpeters and the conductor.
For some reason, we didnÂ’t win. I thought that was a shame because the rest of the band had played brilliantly. Who knows what musical careers my errant face-fart might have ruined?
Imagine if IÂ’d been able to tell my disgruntled band mates that in 30 yearsÂ’ time, I would return to this very room to talk about my winky. Would they have believed me? Surely theyÂ’d assume I would be drunkenly stumbling on stage during someone elseÂ’s concert before being immediately arrested.
If I was them, I would turn up to my gig this week bringing their instruments and let fly with musical heckles of misplaced bum-notes whenever I approach a punch line. That would be justice.
I was not a cool kid at school – the fact I was in the school brass band should convince you of that. Playing the trumpet was cool for about 30 minutes in 1982, when Dexys Midnight Runners released Come On Eileen and I could impress my incredulous school chums with the (rather easy to play) trumpet solo. It was a glorious half an hour but then Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor topped the charts and you were only cool if you could run up a load of steps while punching the air. And obviously I couldn’t do that.
Unbelievably, that pudgy, swotty, headmasterÂ’s son, who listened to comedy records rather than pop hits, carried his books to school in a briefcase and never took off his blazer would somehow go on to host Top Of The Pops (twice!) and be on Radio 1. Would Joanne Thompson have given me a second look if she had known what future awaited me? Can someone please invent a time machine and go back and tell her?
Of course, if IÂ’d been the kind of kid lucky enough to get off with Joanne Thompson, then I wouldnÂ’t have felt the need to try to be funny and I wouldnÂ’t have ended up on Top Of The Pops and thus my time-travel plan would unravel in on itself. Also, I think if the teenage me had kissed Joanne Thompson, he would certainly have exploded. Being too uncool for school might not be such a bad thing in the long run. Better than only being cool at school.
See Richard HerringÂ’s reworking of his smash-hit 2002 show, Talking Cock: The Second Coming, on his nationwide tour.
Visit for tickets. Follow Richard on Twitter: @Herring1967

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