Richard Herring Interviewed: "One Heckler Called Me A Fat Pig And Wanted To Beat Me Up..."

One half of the much loved comedy duo Lee & Herring talks touring, the long awaited release of Fist of Fun and upsetting Christians...
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One half of the much loved comedy duo Lee & Herring talks touring, the long awaited release of Fist of Fun and upsetting Christians...

Once better known as the silly, infantile half of Lee & Herring, Richard Herring has been reminding everyone with his recent shows that there is more to him than the purile man-child (just about), and discovering that perhaps the second coming should come with a disclaimer.

You have been touring your latest show Christ on a Bike - The Second Coming and courting a wee bit of controversy, did you expect this at all when you took it out on the road again?

I really didn't. It didn't happen the first time I toured (there was one leafletter during the London run) and I thought that we would have moved forwards as a country and such protests would be less likely. But evangelical Christians, I feel, think they're under pressure from other religions and are treated unfairly so want to make a fuss. It's a bit silly as the show is really quite pro-Jesus and the Christians who actually saw the show enjoyed it. None of the protestors, as far as I know, bothered to see what was in the show before they protested, which somewhat weakens their position.

Was the first run of the show hampered at all?

As I say, just one leafleter in London as far as I recall. And much less in the way of disapproving mail. I think partly it's cos I am a little higher profile now, but also shows that the more extreme factions in Christianity are feeling a bit threatened and feel that they are mocked in a way that other religions aren't. They feel hard done by. I think they are unjustified.

Any memorable comments or heckles?

I had one protestor who bothered to see the show at the Warwick Arts Centre, but he got drunk and started heckling and calling me a fat pig and offering to fight me very early on. It didn't seem very Christian. My favourite heckler was in Sheffield where when I talked about risking being stabbed in the face with a knitting needle by an insane protestor, a well-spoken woman informed me that no serious knitter would use their needles in that way. It was funny that that was what aggrieved her in the show and that she imagined the stabber would be a serious knitter, but it led to an amusing digression about extremist knitters

Have you enjoyed the tour on the whole?

Yes, on the whole. It's hard work and unrelenting, but I have done tours where almost no one comes, so it's great to be turning up at places and having full theatres a lot of the time and almost always have a turn out of 100 +. I did 94 gigs on this tour in a four months and in March and April it was pretty much daily. But I enjoy the mechanics of performing and am getting more and more professional about providing the best show possible, so I actually enjoy doing the same show nightly as you learn how to make it better and can try out different things. A lot of the changes are subtle ones - things like pace, volume, tiny facial expressions - but I was always trying to improve and perfect the show and I never got bored of it. I also stayed quite fit so managed not to get ill, which is a massive bonus.

My favourite heckler ... when I talked about risking being stabbed in the face with a knitting needle by an insane protestor...informed me that no serious knitter would use their needles in that way.

The 3rd series of As It Occurs To Me has just started, has that been an interesting experience overall?

It's been a great thing to do. It proves that you don't have to wait for anyone to commission your comedy anymore - you can just go ahead and do it, when and where you like and have total artistic freedom. Again it's not an easy thing to do and there have been times when it has made me depressed and frustrated - it's actually harder to do something quickly than spending loads of time on it - but finished the last one last night and it's gratifying to see how people have taken it to their hearts. I have decided that that will be the end of this project, but hope to use the internet in similar ways to create new and exciting content.

It was recently announced that both series of Fist of Fun will be finally arriving on DVD. Any further updates? What brought this release about?

It's too long a story, but basically someone who worked for the company wondered if we'd be interested in doing it but then the company didn't want to release it, so we decided to buy it ourselves and put it out via gofasterstripe. It cost us a fair bit of money, but I think we'll make it back - I get asked about four times a week when the DVD will be coming out. I think when we realised this was possible it seemed stupid not to do it. I actually think the BBC are nuts for not doing it themselves, but I am glad we will have control over the release and we're going to put in lots of extras. It should be out by Christmas (first series anyway - 2nd series next year). It's great to have this series available for fans at last - I think it stands up pretty well and I always thought it got a bit overlooked. But at least now I'll be able to tell people where to get it

What will be next after As It Occurs To Me?

I am doing Edinburgh - two shows "What Is Love, Anyway?" a stand up show in which I am attempting to define and destroy love and "Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast" which will be a daily improvised load of nonsense. I am also doing another series of "Richard Herring's Objective" for Radio 4 and writing a comedy drama script for BBC TV about cave guides.

The Collings and Herring podcast has now been going for over 3 years, can you foresee a time at which you stop doing it?

Yes. It can't go on forever and just at the moment we're taking a mini break to regroup. As long as we're enjoying it I think we'll carry on, but it's a lot of effort and enjoyment is the only reward so if it stops being fun or starts to feel stale we'll stop it.

During Adam and Joe's long sabbatical, how did you find doing Saturday mornings on BBC 6 Music? Was it hard not to swear?

No. I can control myself better than people seem to think - though I did accidentally say "piss" when I spilled hot coffee on myself. I loved doing the show, but again it was a big commitment, especially when I had to drive back overnight when I was on tour. I thought we did a good job, but 6Music are moving in another direction once Adam and Joe's current stint finishes. I am a bit hurt by that, but that's show business as I have learned many times. And it's cool to have my Saturday mornings for myself again

What will you say to St. Peter when you get there in your Sun obituary cartoon?

You've got to let me in. Didn't you know. I am Jesus.

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