Herring: I need to keep pushing myself
‘This year’s show [What Is Love, Anyway?] isn’t much like Christ On A Bike; Christ On A Bike wasn’t like Hitler Moustache; Hitler Moustache was nothing like Headmaster’s Son; Headmaster’s Son was nothing like Oh Fuck, I’m 40. They’re different shows every year and I suppose the only linking thing is me.’
Despite attracting much unwanted publicity for previous tours Christ On A Bike and Hitler Moustache (‘Walking around with a toothbrush moustache on your face is quite a confrontational image’, he confesses) Richard Herring admits he was looking for another big subject in his twentieth year at the Fringe. And you can’t get much bigger than love. So what can Herring tell us about this year’s hour of stand-up?
‘This year I wanted to challenge something that everyone can relate to’, says Herring. ‘It’s quite fascinating that, for example, when I suggest to audiences that love is the same as religion there’s this silence and then they go, “No, no, that’s not on. He can’t have a go at a magical thing I believe in.” I thought that was interesting to look at.’
Herring tells me he’s always been a romantic – a cynical romantic – so the idea to create an Edinburgh Fringe show about love, he says, came from the heart. ‘I’ve always wanted to be in love and had a romantic attitude as a youngster; but my life has turned out to be quite different to that. I hadn’t settled down until fairly recently, which certainly wasn’t my plan. When I first came up with the idea for a show about love I thought that I could just do an hour of autobiography, really…which is more of less what it’s turned out to be. What Is Love, Anyway? is definitely a sweeter show than previous years, though. I’ve basically got an hour to destroy love.’
Those ambitions – no matter how flippant – have been at the heart of Herring’s comedy for much of his solo career (‘My job is to create debate – not come up with answers, but make people think and try to be funny all the way through as well’); and he cites his first Fringe show Chris On A Bike as inspiration for his current successes.
‘The first time I did Christ On A Bike was the first time I really stepped out as a solo act; and I was overcoming demons doing that. Seeing the audience laugh and knowing I had an even funnier bit to come was a really important moment for me in my career – I realised the power of stand-up and realised that I could do it on my own and not just in a double-act.’
His pal Stewart Lee returns to the Fringe this year with work-in-progress show Flickwerk, but Herring doesn’t envisage an on-stage Lee and Herring reunion in Edinburgh. ‘I don’t think either of us are massively keen to revisit that partnership but it’s really nice that we’re still friends and that relationship will always be there. We still enjoy what each other do and it’s amazing to see him doing so well – it’s great that all his hard-work is being recognised. I’m just hoping he’ll come and guest on the Edinburgh Fringe podcast I’m doing at The Stand. We’re releasing Fist Of Fun at the end of the year – which we bought from the BBC ourselves – so we may do something for that, too. I don’t think it’ll happen during the Fringe, though.’
So, with a total of 32 shows under his belt, has Herring’s preparation for Edinburgh changed over the years?
‘Yes, definitely. I think I’ve got a lot more fastidious about it; the show is now the main thing and there’s a more professional approach. When I was younger, going to the Fringe was partly about having fun – I was in my twenties, working hard the rest of the year, and it was almost like that month in Edinburgh was a chance to hang out with people, get drunk and meet women.
‘It was as much about the social aspect, then, and Edinburgh was a little bit about developing the shows as much as anything else. I think the focus of Edinburgh has changed and the focus of my career has changed, too. It’s important for me to go to the Fringe with a show that is very good from day one. I need to keep pushing myself –and Edinburgh’s perfect for that.’
Richard Herring will be performing ‘What Is Love, Anyway?’ at the E4 Cow Barn, Udderbelly’s Pasture, at 8:50pm, daily throughout the festival. For further details see: www.edinburghsbestcomedy.com