Richard Herring interview on comedy, Stewart Lee & stand-up | Unfiltered with James O’Brien #22Jun 09, 2021
Welcome loves, how does it work? We wander aimlessly through his back catalog into his personal life to a certain extent and his professional achievements end with the latest or last one-man show around his 18 or 19 years or whatever. I think it's probably show number 13, but I've done a couple of them a couple of times. I've been on tour every year since, apart from two thousand, you've also said that 80% of the things you do are free. Is this in the context of explaining that for the last five or six years you've been working pretty much seven days a week, so did you fire your agent?
Yes, by choice and I think most of the things I was doing for free. they've started to bear fruit right now and they criticized that they bear fruit in different ways anyway, so really about 10 years ago we saw that he was on the Internet all the time, really you know, nice midnight. Well, the ministry would have a website and we did a lot of things, even with the TV show we had an email address which was quite unusual and we liked that, and even before the Internet, although those shows were quite Internet II and they were people to get involved.
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richard herring interview on comedy stewart lee stand up unfiltered with james o brien 22...
I contributed to them so I was always aware that there was new territory you could go into and I think I started blogging 15 years ago and I did it partly just as a way to get over Rhy's block. and then I realized that if something is happening on a website, people visit your website every day, so that's not a bad thing and hopefully they will come and watch some shows and then with podcasting, it was kind of realizing that you could have autonomy having a
standup you know what I love about
standup and I actually came back to set it up quite late but what I love about it is that you know you have an idea and you put it out there.
You turn it on and then you go and do it, that's all. My one-man show is completely self-generated and no one tells you what I can and can't do, which you obviously felt a lot of people were doing too well, it's very difficult and there's still stuff to be put out on TV and radio and I've had a good degree of success that led to most people posting things on TV and radio, but I felt like I had a lot of ideas and most of them disappeared into the ether, so just the idea of being able to do what appeals to the podcast was just the idea of being able to do whatever you want to do and I didn't really care about anything else and from the beginning people came, but you're not going to make any money and have it go well, you don't know, what matters is the work, yeah, and if it works well, presumably that will lead to other things, leap of faith, fingers crossed a little though, but even though everything I've done the intern I just thought I'm doing this for the sake of doing it, I'm not doing this, you know, and in that, maybe like when we first had a consistent audience, maybe we did a radio show and then we quit and then I did a podcast and maybe deep down you thought, hey, yeah to someone like this, maybe they'll give us a radio show back, you know, but that was it and then we quickly realized and did a gallery show, in fact, we broke up. so we had a relationship for a year, but we couldn't realize that there was value in other places and especially for me because I was on tour and if you go into people's ears every week with a you know and make them laugh and it's free, so they're every now, you know, most people will go, hey, he's coming to our city, let's go see him and let's be.
I feel a little guilty about these fifty. I suddenly realized, you know, and unintentionally, it was kind of a brilliant business model because I'm not a businessman, but I realized that the probability or the audience would double in two or three years and I mean , unintentionally, but you were way ahead of the game on that because it probably took me making this podcast. It took me to realize, fifteen years after you started, that the whole nature of we have to use this language until someone comes up with a better delivery of word content and our kind of thing is really changing.
People listening to this will be surprised to know that someone like you, you know a well-known name among the most successful comedians of his generation, still feels pigeonholed by the broadcasters, they will assume that you see someone filling big venues or someone who is really doing the business and then the TV people just say, "I'm going to come and do whatever you want on our station, I mean, no, it's very difficult, you know, it's very high, we were even on high school television denim for four or five years and we've done radio, we worked together for 10 or 13 years, something like that, and you know.
We're still around even though we were on TV, it was a struggle to stay and we almost died out and then we were able to stay and you know and the regime change and I'm still there and I've just written a sitcom that I'm very pleased with and we did a preview of the tape and it was really good and then everyone on the broadcast changed different things and then you go in and you have a terrible meeting with them. Those three years of work have gone down the toilet, so you don't necessarily expect someone else to do it, but you know you do.
I think when I was doing it, I think the podcast then I started doing whatever I came up with. It was like a weekly stand-up and sketch thing and that was around the same time, you know, I think I might even host it as a radio show and then I realized that was just the time when the whole thing of the cake bags had broken. with Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross and the Beavers who have been so cautious and you think I've got this, I've got this place, I can go and do whatever I want and you know everything that goes into it. she makes you come with this I could be as rude as I want if you go for two weeks you're being terrible you're going crazy and then you leave yes she's not fun if you can if they let you do it it's not fun so you know you're coming back and it settles into its own rhythm, but that freedom and that autonomy you know, because I think what's strange for me is more and more and I think maybe it didn't used to happen so much on television and the The things that success in I think what almost always breaks television is that an executive sees something he likes and then takes a leap of faith for it. "I like you and obviously you don't, yeah, so you go and do it, whereas now more and more." You have an idea and they will go, it would be better if that were the case, you know, I have been writing scripts for 30, you know, those, I have the notes of the latex thing that was going on, this is a bit of a hack, right? a little trite, I've been doing
comedyfor 30 years, okay, I go out every night and do
I know what hack is, if there's something there that you think is hack, you either haven't gotten the joke or you don't understand it. I understand why it's there, but you don't know? I wouldn't presume to go to someone who was a doctor and worked 30 years ago. If it seems contradictory to me, shouldn't you know that you would find people you like and then? Take a chance on them and I think that's where all the wonderful things have been Monty Python. It seems like they were left alone. Yes, Amanda, you knew she would leave him alone and he would come up with something great.
I was talking to Mackenzie Crook on my podcast the other weekend about Tetris. He just went over this idea and they just said, "Hey, we love this, let's go and do it, we trust you to do it and I think you have to do it." Do that to create a truly innovative comedy. Let's go back to the beginning. I've been treated like you were born in Port Clinton and your Schreiber at school in a big room, right around the corner, no, actively, yeah, I don't remember much. In that regard, we did very well, my dad was a teacher at Pocket Hot Wings at school, yes, and then you ended up at the school where he was principal, yes, but that was in Cheddar, so we moved.
There was a comprehensive school in Cheddar, but a very one. good school, I know you've thought about this in the past, but if you have a fairly anti-authoritarian streak and your father is a headmaster, you probably don't have to be Freud, well I think it's strange because I was, you know? Did the program director ask someone to find out if he affected me or not? I think he definitely did affect me, but he was at school. I liked comedy and I liked subversion only when it was very good. I love it, I like Pete. and Doug Monty Python's young men, they were all that kind of stuff, you know, and the mafia and I was getting a lot of stuff on records, everyone else was listening to music, my friends were into punk and I was into a little bit .
Punk, but I was, you know, the Pete and Doug thing fell into your lap and you know you couldn't believe, I don't know how I loved all of this, there was something subversive in terms of, I loved comedy that was subversive, but web and I was mischievous and cheeky and the lessons and trying to be funny all the time were a group of friends who were terribly funny and we did high school comedy revues which again were a bit subversive, but we were really good at like Well, I was trying to I got to university and I was smart and I was doing well on exams, but you have the artist thing, yes, but I think all of this predates anything that has to do with my father, so I think.
Like, I look at my I realized that around four or five I was a little obsessed with you, you know this mysterious sex thing without knowing much about what it was, but even what I discovered at five, have fun, I was obsessed with that. and the nudity and the swearing, you know, saying poop and we're just getting into it, but that was exciting for me, but I also really liked anything fun, I loved it, I loved writing stories, you know, it was all innate there. I really think it was in me and did you always know it was potentially something you could do for a living?
No, no, I think I wanted it and that was the dream. You know, you look at these people and you dreamed that you could. do that, but as a Somerset schoolboy with no basis in show business, I remember going to my career officers' meeting and you meet him saying I'd like to be a writer or an actor, he's picking up, you know, those they're not in the You can't do that, you should work in a bank or you know, oh, you won't be able to do it because it wasn't a realistic avenue, even then you know, even when we started, really you know, it wasn't comedy.
It wasn't something that he did for a living, you know, you know, there will be very few people who have television shows and can be successful that way, but it wasn't like, oh, and now it is because it's an industry and Now people can go if I get into this. It could be Michael McIntyre and a million pounds a night or whatever you know, so I think people see it differently, but the Trailblazers for you, although you should wear them, they inspired you because the deals did this. podcast yes, and he's a little older than you, yes, they invented rock and roll comedy, yes, as it was, presumably it somehow opened the door, we were only a couple of years behind them and with the same administration that they and It wasn't, it was probably useless.
I think people just thought, oh, they're electronic, we weren't overpowered. I loved David and I think he is a. I had seen his stand-up and you know, they had seen bits and pieces of it. and pieces of the numa numa deal and but you know they weren't, they weren't like a big influence on us, we lied, they were, I think Stu and I come from very different sensibilities but very similar senses of humor that we met in college. . So we met first semester in college and I think all the rest of us met at the comedy club, we missed each other a couple of times and then we met at a party and we both disliked each other. everything else was being done by everyone and we had both done some pretty strange things in the first semester that we hadn't seen but we had heard about on stage yes, he had done a sketch about people standing at a bus stop with fruit and Idina everything I had heard that Darren was going to do this weird sketch and I had done a sketch about having a singing penis, so that probably sums up the two of us, but we both felt like we had something, we had the same sense of humor but a very different style. . way of approaching it and I think in everything we were doing that was the case also where I had oh, I loved all those comedy sketches, I loved group comedy, I love young people, but also, you know, it's very in collaborating, you knew it took me a long time to become a solo comedian.
I didn't think I'd had a weird, horrible time in Edinburgh when we finished, we're at Oxford review and we're up at 988 and it was just the point where stand-up comedy was massive at this end and student comedy was at the group in the sewer and they kicked us into the sewer, yeah, I mean, I had a horrible time and they really harassed me. I understand, I understand why. the audience knows him from the other comedians, but the standard comedians that you know hated the perceived privilege and the fact that we would all get along and this is interesting because David again, David Perdue was saying that for that generation that you're a part of. five years earlier, the limelight and the Oxford Reviewtoo old to be childish and what my personality was like, so you know, this intellectual purity is what I've always done and I think I'm at number 40, oh God, I might be up too late at night now.
Too embarrassing it's too weird and that's no no and plus my life was I wasn't married and I didn't have kids and I blew it all out of the water you know I just saw the ship sail well yeah in every way you know . and and and what should I do when I'm 50? I've been forced to grow up in some ways, but I'm still childish, yes, and it's still about that, but I also think about suddenly realizing that you overcome a certain obstacle. and then it becomes more fun to be childish as you get older, so that's all good, but you have a little more wisdom at 50, so it's about looking back and understanding that you know you feel like you're in the in half of your life even though you are your life and you know you have that perspective is that perspective of like you know my personal life my career that I wouldn't have had ten years ago, do the numbers actually resonate? life because obviously 40 or 50 in terms of birthday and party cards and useful headlines first show yes, they are big numbers, but I found 46 46 last month and I found it much more worrying than 40 or 45, it's strange, isn't it?
It's strange, I mean, now 40 really hit me hard and yeah, but I was 340. Oh, Steve's not 50. I have other things to worry about now, but like middle voices, mortality, even though it's a humble mortality, yes, yes, definitely, I'm obsessed. with death, my why I did it. I will show about the death because it is said that my wife does not talk because I keep talking about the death of Eric Cantona when he was sitting in that chair. I asked him a similar question and he paused for a long time. She worried me that she would decide not to respond and then she simply said that she would find a way to overcome what anyone can do.
It's very strange. I think being in your forties is worse than anything else, yeah, because I think you're still 40. I mean that's the difference at 40. I looked back and it was. He was quite fit and handsome.sexy and everything was working there was no feeling that anything could go wrong. I still was, you know, young women still found me attractive and like 50 and then my lives are different and I'm not trying to be attracted to young women. I'd like to know, do you know I'm not? Then there are all these things that you have to deal with and things start to go wrong and it's not until your mid-forties that that really starts to happen.
I think so as a man. You're lucky in a lot of ways, but then it hits you so hard and I think we're not as prepared because you have this privileged lifestyle and you dominate what you know and this right and you don't realize it and everyone does what you want. and then all of a sudden you get 45 46 50 and people are already so upset, then you have women who care about your workers and who care about you, you have to come to terms with those things and I think that's why what I mean there's a big good topic, but everything that's blowing up right now is about these middle-aged kids who haven't quite made it and suddenly realize they're not powerful because they try so hard or exercise so much. its power? powers in such horrible ways and that's why you feel so relieved to be in control of your own professional destiny, yeah it's not, you know autonomy is great, so is understanding, and what's important, is that you know It's wonderful to be on tour and I love it.
Doing the shows, but it's great to come home, we've seen my kids cancel those concerts because of the snow and you think, oh, it's terrible, there are two days of exercise, but then I came back and I'm not stuck in a snowdrift. I'm with my family and it was hard, but for them it was harder one of the days, but you still know it's great to have that to work towards and come back to that, but yeah, you know how to have a perspective and understand your own. unimportant and that's all the fish know about how it's snowing in the grand scheme of things, how time will simply pass for you and you will turn to dust, how people can see it, come on rich ENCOM, you can see everything that concerts are.
Up there, I mean, it goes on until June, but I'm on tour, it's quite a bit, it's got a good pace, it's all just for me, it's like two or three a week, so it's not too tiring, especially for a man of your kind. age. Yes, I'm going to have it, I have a four-month-old son going on tour, but still the tiredness never leaves you, so yes, it's a fun time doing it in London on May 4 doing the Richard Harry metaphor DVD, thank you. thank you very much for having me
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