January 21, 2014 Â· 11:40 am
Comedian Richard Herring on financing his own TV series and an alternative to losing money at the Edinburgh Fringe
In my blog a couple of days ago, Richard Herring chatted to me about creating free content like blogs and podcasts as a way to generate paying punters for his live shows.
He has been podcasting since 2008 and his Leicester Square Theatre Podcasts â€“ available on iTunes and on YouTube â€“ continue but, this Sunday at the Leicester Square Theatre in London, he is also recording the second episode of his new online TV series Richard Herringâ€™s Meaning of Life.
â€œThe Meaning of Life is another leap forward,â€ he told me over a fifth coffee at Bar Italia in Soho, â€œbecause itâ€™s going to cost me money, which none of the other stuff has really done.
â€œAll the podcasts used up my time, but theyâ€™re basically free-to-do. I just recorded them on a computer or whatever. I spent a bit on money on equipment, but not very much. Then I just put them out and itâ€™s fairly easy to do. But, with The Meaning of Life, the idea was me thinking: Iâ€™d like to do my own 6-part stand-up show on TV, but nobody is particularly interested in giving me that opportunity â€“ so why not do it myself?
â€œWeâ€™re doing six shows and, including all the editing, the cameramen and so on â€“ Iâ€™m not getting paid, but weâ€™re paying everyone else â€“ itâ€™s going to cost me around Â£20,000 to film six of them.
â€œThereâ€™s six monthly recordings and thatâ€™s a lot of work. Iâ€™m trying to write new stuff and not use any old material. Iâ€™m writing at least 30-45 minutes of new material each month. Iâ€™m trying to use no stuff from my previous stand-up shows but thereâ€™s a few things from the 1990s where I think: Well, there might be something in developing that idea.
â€œWeâ€™re recording them every month but really we should have done them every two months. I under-estimated how much work would be involved. I have to write them properly and I go out and do a few gigs on the circuit to familiarise myself with the material. Itâ€™s mainly me doing stand-up, but weâ€™ve got an animator whoâ€™s 3D animating a sketch with my voice and Christian Reilly is doing the theme music and thereâ€™s an interview in each show.
â€œThe first one will hopefully be out at the end of this month â€“ it will probably be about 45 minutes to an hour long - and it will have taken two months to put it together. It would be nice if they came out every month, but I donâ€™t know if weâ€™ll be able to manage that.â€
â€œAnd I presume the material wonâ€™t date,â€ I said.
â€œNo,â€ laughed Richard, â€œbecause itâ€™s about the meaning of life. Each episode is about a big subject. The first one is about the creation of the universe â€“ so that doesnâ€™t really date. The second oneâ€™s about the paranormal.â€
â€œAnd,â€ I said, â€œas an online show, it will get you seen worldwide.â€
â€œYes, the great thing about the podcasts is Iâ€™m getting Australian and American fans without travelling. I havenâ€™t been out to Australia in ten years; Iâ€™ve never done anything in America. And Iâ€™m building up a sort-of fan base. Within the business, people know who I am, but Iâ€™m under the radar of most people so, if people do discover me, itâ€™s quite a surprise for them and thereâ€™s a lot to catch up on: the TV stuff, the DVDs and hours and hours of podcasts.â€
â€œI guess,â€ I said, â€œyouâ€™re under the radar in, say, Sacramento.â€
â€œOh definitely in Sacramento. But, even in the UK. If I walk round the middle of London for two hours, two people might recognise me. Itâ€™s nice in a way because it means I can carry on doing my job. I can sit in a coffee shop and work and look around and see whatâ€™s going on. No-one clocks me. If I were Ricky Gervais, all I would hear would be: Is that Ricky Gervais?
â€œOn the last series of the Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, a website was offering me around Â£5,000 to advertise during it. I decided it wasnâ€™t really enough money to justify selling-out, but also they wanted me to do an advert in the middle of the podcast as well as at the start and the end and I felt it would break the flow and my audience would laugh in the face of it and then they wouldnâ€™t pay me anyway. I also figured If they think theyâ€™re going to get Â£5,000 of business out of advertising on my podcast, then it is surely worth more than Â£5,000 as an advert for me.
â€œI think one important thing about The Meaning of Life is showing what you can do if youâ€™re prepared to put up some money.
â€œPeople go to the Edinburgh Fringe and spend Â£10,000 and five people come and see them and they get one review. If you have got Â£10,000, why not make a very good one-hour video with some sketches in it instead?
â€œIf you can find three friends with three video cameras, you can do it. You can do whatever you want. You can put that on YouTube for free and potentially millions of people can see it and you can send that link to journalists and producers when theyâ€™re not being bogged-down in Edinburgh.
â€œIf youâ€™ve got that much money to spend and to lose, then thatâ€™s a better investment than going to Edinburgh and spending the money doing a show thatâ€™s fantastic and 100 people see it and thatâ€™s the end of it.â€
â€œBut the problem is production quality and covering costs?â€ I suggested.
â€œYes,â€ agreed Richard. â€œI thought we could make The Meaning of Life look like a normal TV show, but my shirtâ€™s hanging out and it looks a bit messier. We get a little bit of money from the door because the tickets are very cheap â€“ Â£10 â€“ I struck a very bad 50/50 deal with the Leicester Square Theatre because I thought no-one would come and people are coming.â€
â€œAnd the bonus of doing it yourself,â€ I asked, â€œis you have fewer content restrictions?â€
â€œYes,â€ said Richard, â€œThe thing about the Leicester Square Theatre Podcasts (which are videoed and put online at YouTube) where I interview a comedian for an hour-and-a-half or two hours is that you couldnâ€™t do it on broadcast TV. No-one would let you do two hours of talking to one person on broadcast TV.
â€œIn the end, someone like Netflix might buy them: someone who doesnâ€™t have to put it into a fixed schedule. Four of my stand-up shows are already on Netflix.
â€œWithin five years, I think most people will just have a TV and theyâ€™ll select what they want to watch from the BBC or YouTube or richardherring.com and theyâ€™ll watch it whenever they want. So we are all broadcasters now. Itâ€™s just finding a way to get some money back from that.
â€œIâ€™ve heard club comedians say Oh, I can never get on the Michael McIntyre Roadshow - which I canâ€™t get on either â€“ but now you can make your own TV show. You can go into any club with three cameras. It doesnâ€™t matter what it looks like. No-one is watching stand-up saying: Ooh, it has to be swooping cameras on a big stage. If the materialâ€™s good, you can put it up online and that will cost you letâ€™s say Â£500 to pay the cameramen and edit it together. It can be done. Thereâ€™s no excuse any more for not doing it.
â€œPeople used to say Well, I WOULD write a novel if anyone would publish it. You can publish it yourself now. You can upload it as an eBook. You can get it out there. Itâ€™s exactly the same with all of these things.
â€œItâ€™s also about understanding that you donâ€™t have to be paid immediately, that it can build up.â€