Richard Herring, writer, comedian and podcast-host, asks the questions on everyone’s lips in his podcast series of wide-ranging interviews. Stephen Fry’s episode is RHLSTP (as the cool kids call it) at its best, as Fry gives a “thorough” answer on the aforementioned topic, but later in the interview talks openly about a suicide attempt. This contrast is far from jarring though, as the intimate tone allows space for scatological anecdotes and sincerity to sit together naturally in a way that could never exist in a television chat show format.
This freedom to be a completely different show each week is another reason that these are interviews like no others.
Each interview lasts around an hour, which means that usually a lull is inevitable at some stage in the conversation, but at the same time this is what makes the interviews unique. In the space of an hour the guests quickly exhaust their standard answers and Herring allows the conversation to drift to unexpected places, often prompting unexpected responses from the guests. Herring’s interviewing style is to essentially take up different personas, depending on the guest and topic. Talking to Mary Beard, for example, he is intelligent and curious, but with Greg Davies he is energetic and jovial. This freedom to be a completely different show each week is another reason that these are interviews like no others. There are occasions on which he misjudges the tone, either confusing or offending the guest with bizarre questions, but these same questions are often the ones which produce the most interesting answers.
The guests range from big names (recent guests include Russell Howard, Sarah Millican and Matt Lucas) to up and coming comedians and actors, and this variety makes for something of a lucky dip. Although the majority of the guests are comedians of some description, there are also episodes with writers, actors and academics. While it is interesting to hear revered people like The Goodies talk about their careers, often it is the more obscure interviewees that make for funnier listening, because Herring is less reverential towards them. Although some episodes have the tendency to become background noise, there are some real gems. Greg Davies and David Mitchell’s episodes stand out for comedy, while Jon Ronson’s episode is fascinating. The episode (yet so much more than just an episode) with Brian Blessed is a must-watch.
Regular questions include “Have you ever seen a ghost?” and “If you had to be in a human centipede with two other people, who would you choose?”
The joy of RHLSTP is that it feels like a little club (in fact donors can receive Beano Club-style badges). There are catch phrases and inside-jokes which often confuse the guest as much as they entertain the audience, for example the ‘Emergency Questions’. Regular questions include “Have you ever seen a ghost?” and “If you had to be in a human centipede with two other people, who would you choose?”. For regular listeners, Herring becomes a companion, and even when things go wrong, for example in the frosty Stephen Merchant interview, the listener’s sympathies lie with Herring. Though the inside-jokes could be off putting to new listeners, the best episodes have enough individual merit to engage sceptical listeners.
There are upwards of 200 episodes of the podcast available, so ultimately there will be something for everyone. If you think of a comedian, they’ve probably done a RHLSTP episode. Unless they’re too famous. Or have a grievance against Richard Herring. Or they recorded one but didn’t allow it to go out. Each episode is available through your podcast provider and most are filmed for YouTube. For true devotees, there are opportunities to see the recordings live on tour, with two recent shows in Newcastle at The Stand selling out and various future dates elsewhere.