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Monday 27th June 2011

Last night at the Lyric gig we had to work in front of the set of the play that was on for the rest of the week. It was quite a minimalist affair with doors with no walls. I introduced each act and made them come through one of the doors, which was a funny conceit - "Who's coming through my door next - why, it's TV's Jon Richardson!" Matthew Crosby of Pappys was laughing about the idea backstage saying I should try and pitch a TV show called "Herring's Door" and we imagined how slight a premise that might be to convince an executive. "I have a door and each week someone comes through it."
"But why's it called Herring's Door - I'm failing to see the pun I think."
"There's no pun. It's just my door, so that's the name of the show."
On stage I suggested it could be my new gimmick - whenever I am on stage I have a free-standing door, that never gets opened or referred to. People would remember me. He's the comedian with the door. Though it would be a pain in the arse to have to carry the door around the country with me and then get it put up in each venue. It might be genius.
I joked in the second half that Channel 4 execs had rushed down to the theatre to see the whole new Herring's Door concept. This could be my big break.
It was fun. You should have come. But you didn't, did you? You idiot!
Talking with Matthew I did say that the whole "door" gimmick had been done before, by a comedian called Paul Squire in the early 80s. He is someone that hardly anyone remembers now (in fact I mentioned him to the audience in an attempt at some anti-Peter Kay nostalgia comedy and only one person knew who I was talking about). In a way this is quite astonishing, but is also a telling indication of the transience of fame, because back in the early 1980s Paul Squire was right on the cusp of being the next big thing. I don't remember too much about his act, but think he was a kind of cross between Les Dennis and Phil Cool or doing comedy in that kind of broad mainstream area. The reason he stuck in my mind is because, from my memory at least, he had a series on the BBC and a series on ITV practically simultaneously. That's how big he was, for a few months anyway. I think one show was called "The Paul Squire Show" and the other was called "P S, it's Paul Squire" and I think that was the one in which he would link between sketches by passing through a door on stage (inadvertently stealing my whole Herring's Door schtick by preempting it). Then Paul Squire seemed to just disappear off the face of the earth. The only big mention he ever got after that was when Rik was playing Botticelli in a Young Ones episode and he revealed, "I was Paul Squires!" which even though this was within months of Paul Squire's fame seemed to fall flat with the audience - though I had loved it at the time, thinking it was a brilliant person to choose. I don't know what happened to him and the internet is not much help. At the back of my mind I had a half-remembered and libelous rumour about him, which I told to Crosby, but it was only a minor thing and not really enough to explain his fall.
Today Crosby sent me a link to his biog at his management's website, so he is still clearly alive and working. There is only one clip on Youtube a trailer for his ITV show which is gloriously dated and vague and nonsensical, giving little idea of content and begins to make the Herring's Door pitch look like gold. Aside from that there's one interview in a Shropshire local paper which leaves more unsaid than said and gives little clue as to what happened to cause the change in Squire's fortunes.
I find it all quite fascinating and intriguing, perhaps because I have an affinity with Squire - he is in the same job as me and I too have experienced the ups and downs in this career, though not with quite such sharp highs and lows. It's incredible to me that this man was a prime time star and yet had slipped from the national consciousness to this extent (I am talking about him, not me there). But this is showbusiness and I like the philosophy that Squire expounds in his interview. There is a truth to the idea that it's better to be a journeyman than a star, but then it's easy to say that if your star has waned or crashed. And Squire and I are not the only casualties of the business - having watched the entire box set of the Larry Sanders show over the last couple of months - a show filmed in the mid-90s - it's astonishing to see how many of his big name TV and movie star guests have either slipped out of one's mind or died. Show business is unforgiving in the way it eats people up and then shits them out and there's always someone new ready to come and take your place and very few people stay at a constantly high level. Perhaps at the end of it all the bigger success really is to keep on working and keep on creating without shooting up like a firework and then descending as quickly. But then, I would say that wouldn't I?
But what did Paul Squire do or say or catch to go from the Royal Variety and two prime time comedy shows to such obscurity? And did it involve a high-backed armchair?

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