Richard Herring - As It Occurs to Me
As he prepares for a major new London show, Richard Herring talks to Time Out about dodgy 'taches, censorship and why the future of stand-up is online
The last time I bumped into Richard Herring was at the O2 Arena back in May, just before the start of one of Al Murray's giant comedy rallies.
Sat atop his top lip was a distinctly odd-looking growth of facial hair. 'I'm trying to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy,' he explained. 'It's what my next show's about.'
As the lights dimmed, thousands of people around me began to chant along with the Pub Landlord's xenophobic catchphrases, waving Union Jacks and revelling in their 'ironic' nationalism, I kept catching glimpses of Herring's silhouette through the crowd, unnervingly looking less like Charlie and more and more like Adolf with each passing minute.
So it was with some relief that when we met up to talk about his latest project, the 'tache has been wholly absorbed by a handsome beard…
Your show 'Hitler Moustache' was a huge success at Edinburgh this year. Is it a relief to no longer have to sport that particular look?
'Well, it would be, if I wasn't doing the show again later this year. Hence the beard: I'll shave off the hair surplus to requirements just before the show.'
Your current project, 'Richard Herring - As It Occurs to Me', is a stand-up and sketch show for the internet recorded in front of a live audience. How did it come about?
'Originally, it was an idea I had for a radio or television programme - a soap opera/sitcom based around things that occur to me during the week, but it never came off. In the meantime I've been doing these podcasts with Andrew Collins. So I thought it would be interesting to do a show on the internet, bypassing all the committees and nonsense you have to go through for radio. If I'm not going to make very much money, I might as well do it for free, and just cover the cost by charging people to come and see it.'
How will having total artistic control of the project alter the final product?
'I'm going to take some chances, like not editing it, if there are any mistakes it'll go out like that, which hopefully will make it feel more like a live experience and it'll be cheaper. It also means that if I have an hour's worth of great stuff, we can put all that out, as we're not constrained by a programming schedule.'
And presumably it gives you greater freedom of speech…
'Absolutely. For example, at the recording of one panel show recently, we were asked not to make any remarks that might be edited from the final programme or even say anything inappropriate during the warm-ups, just in case. Normally you know if you've said something that oversteps the mark, the audience will let you know and the producer will take it out.'
But I guess on the web you don't have to worry as much…
'True, although you have to use the freedom you're given responsibly. It's just nice not to be molly-coddled. The autonomy Andrew and I have had with the podcast is great, because it means you can genuinely push the boundaries and then apologise if you go too far. Having said that, I think the people who listen to us are intelligent and get what we're trying to do. Even if someone didn't like something we said, another good thing is, nothing really happens - we can't be sacked.'
Is there money to be made from producing things for the web?
'Not for me, at the moment. I'm not doing this for any other reason than because I want to do something and not be beholden to anyone. What's interesting is that if I can get 20,000 people to download the podcast who then come to see my live shows and buy my DVDs then that's a viable way of earning a living.'