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Wednesday 6th July 2005

I got an email of complaint today from a Christian who had been offended by my show at the Latchmere pub last week. It's not one of those unreasonable, slightly mental missives that often come from religious obsessives and the person clearly likes a lot of my stuff, but felt on this occasion that I was unnecessarily offensive to Christians. This kind of thing can be unsettling as I genuinely don't want to upset anyone - only to make them think and hopefully laugh. But as we've seen from gigs like the one in Lincoln sometimes people do get offended. Alas it is inevitable if I am going to do edgier stuff and also if I am going to keep the shows looser with more ad-libs and so on. Sometimes the tone of a show can be much darker, even if the material is the same. To be honest, I don't remember this being the case in the Latchmere though.
Here anyway is the complaint email and my reply.
"I attended the Richard Herring Stand up at the Latchmere theatre last week and was both disappointed and shocked by the content of the comedy.
I was looking forward to the evening as my husband and I were big fans of Fist of Fun, and also the Lee and Herring Radio Show on Saturdays. As a frequent comedy night visitor, I am well used to jokes that are close to the
bone and believe I have a liberal attitude to most areas - especially after a few pints.
Around 10 mins into the set Richard began to make jokes about the Pope's recent death which were quite funny. This carried on for around 10 mins and the audience were responding fairly well to this. HOWEVER, when 25 minutes later Richard was still on the subject of Catholics, the jokes were now unnecessarily cruel towards Christians and 80% of the set jokes were directly related to this topic.
Richard quipped that he would make the same sort of jokes about other religions but I sincerely believe that this is not the case.
I strongly disagree with the new legislations that are being forced upon comedians, but the length of time spent during the set on one particular area seemed to be unfairly weighted and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and angry.
I would like to ask Richard if he knows how spending £5 to be ridiculed about my religion for 45 minutes out of a 1 Hour set can possibly be seen as
I look forward to a response from Richard about his chosen comedy, and wish I could tease him about his greasy hair and weight problem for 45 minutes."

"Hi x
Sorry to offend you and sorry you didn't like my take on religion. I am surprised you did not realise that I had this attitude to religion if you have watched my TV stuff, but I will not apologise for my view point. I am an atheist and have come to this conclusion after studying religion very closely. I believe that you have a right to believe what you want and to talk about it to other people, but that I also have that right. A lot of things that Christians say annoy me (for example the Pope saying people should not use condoms in AIDS infested areas) but I believe they have the right to say them. The point of the routine is that it is a bit much for the Pope to tell us what to do with his sperm when some of his priests are having sex with kids - maybe it's a priority to sort that out first. I did a show about Jesus a few years ago and know a lot about him and respect his philosophy which is extremely sound. I do not accept that he was divine - in fact that spoils it a bit for me, because there is no kudos to doing what he was doing if he was a god, but his sacrifice and opposition to the hypocrisy of religion are more admirable if he was merely human. Again my point was that many Christians don't exactly follow his word - the Pope living in a big Palace for example, or hating homosexuals.
I believe comedy's job is to make people think and to challenge closed systems of thought. I think that if you are right about Jesus then anything I can say won't harm him. Also I will be spending eternity in Hell which maybe is enough of a punishment. If we do not question closed systems of thought and accept things because someone tells us it is a matter of faith then we end up with the situation in Nazi Germany which is brilliantly shown in the film "Downfall". If you do not like this kind of comedy then go to another show. Again the great thing about this country is that we can say and do what we want. Given that much of my act is dedicated to taking the piss out of myself I would have no problem with you doing a show about my hair (washed daily) or weight. I do jokes about this myself. You are also welcome to pick out the hypocrisy of my own atheism - again something I did in my show "Christ on a Bike" and in the yoghurt routine - even in the Pope bit I point out my own pathetic refusal to go to church at Christmas. I am clearly taking a notion to its logical conclusion in the Pope bit for comedic effect. I do believe what I say though. In fact I believe it enough that if I sat through someone else taking the piss out of it for 20 minutes then I would still believe it. It wouldn't make me angry. I might not go and see the person again. How do you justify the Pope telling people not to use condoms or priests having sex with kids or the fact that according to the Bible I should shun you when you are having a period. I tend to make jokes about Christianity because I know a lot about it and we live in a country where it is the main religion. But I feel the same about all religions and do say so in the show and have done material about the Islamic faith, which I think is what you think I wouldn't do.

I like a lot of Christians, my parents as I said are Christian, and it's important to remember that I am a comedian and I am trying to be funny and that the protraction of calling Catholics illiterate and stupid is just a joke. Most Christians and most religious people are fine, but I have a problem with someone wielding such power and using it in what I perceive to be against the teachings of Christ. It's a strong routine that raises some important points and hopefully will get people talking about the issues. That is what I want to achieve in my comedy.

Sorry you didn't like the show, but like you say, most people who come do. I will happily donate the price of your tickets to SCOPE to make up for your disappointment, even though little or none of the ticket money is given to me. Thanks for your feedback. I hope as someone who believes so strongly in something you will understand why I have to carry on doing the material that I strongly believe in too. Rich Herring"

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