Richard Herring on his new show Oh Frig, I'm 50!
Comedian Richard Herring returns to Ireland next month on his Oh Frig, I'm 50! tour. David Roy quizzed the top stand-up, writer and podcaster about celebrating half a century of existence and his current state of relative contentment
HELLO Richard, how is your Oh Frig, I'm 50! tour going?
It gets harder every year to cope with all the travelling, but the shows are fun. I've got a five-year-old and a three-year-old, so that adds a little extra to the mix because every tour now I'm slightly battling against snot and coughs and stuff. But it's not been too bad this time. I've been a bit tired, but the show is going really well.
It's always interesting touring my stuff: some places I'll go, I get 700/800 people and in others I get 80. I can go from playing a massive hall to a tiny comedy club from day to day, which is actually quite good fun because it gives you a bit of variety.
Presumably, a small show half-full of really enthusiastic fans is better than a big sell-out with only mildly curious punters?
Oh yeah, and I'm very lucky because sometimes if you're a big TV comedian you get people there because they've heard of you, and if they're not really 'your audience' that can create a sort of weird atmosphere in the room.
But I've built up my audience over the last 20 years by touring every year, so mostly they're really into what I'm doing. Now I know that even an audience of 100 is going to be fine. Certainly, 14 or 15 years ago, I would have been very happy just to get 100 people at every gig.
So I'm very appreciative of people coming to see me, and also the fact that I've built the audience myself by clawing those numbers up bit by bit over the years.
Oh Frig, I'm 50! is a sequel of sorts to your Oh F***, I'm 40! show. You seem to be in a much happier place now than a decade ago?
Yeah, a lot has changed in 10 years. Half way through the year I turned 40 I got together with my wife, so that was the year that literally everything changed – and it needed to change as well, I think.
Me at 50 and me at 40 are like two characters in a terrible sitcom where there's respectful man and a dissolute man sharing a flat for some reason. So the show is partly about that and also partly about how I still miss aspects of the life I had before – but I wouldn't like to go back to it.
I did a whole show called Happy Now? which was all about how constant happiness is not really an achievable thing. Laughter and happiness are like the same thing, they're little explosions where you feel joy and then something else comes along and you feel miserable again.
But I'm definitely content in a way I wasn't 10 years ago. I love my life, I love being a dad, it's very nice being married and I feel very fortunate to be in a position where my career is stabilising into something that's viable.
Is your audience ageing with you or do you notice younger faces each year as well?
Because I do so many different things, I draw my audience from lots of different places. At the Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcasts (RHLSTP), there's often some teenagers there, the Radio 4 stuff [family sitcom Relativity] brings its own people, the Metro column I did used to bring in different people and then the stand-up stuff on its own brings in people as well.
I do think the podcasts [including RHLSTP since 2012 and its predecessor Collings and Herrin with Andrew Collins from 2008 to 2011] have really helped. They're not exclusively a 'young person's thing' but I think it has helped bring a fresh new load of people to see my stuff.
When we started doing Collings and Herrin every week, I noticed very quickly that when I'd go out on tour suddenly my audiences had doubled from very small numbers to slightly bigger numbers.
You kind of realise the power of just being able to tell people you're doing stuff. If someone likes your podcast and then finds out that you're coming to their town, chances are they'll come and see you after you've given them 50 weeks of free entertainment a year. It's quite a nice way of things working out.
But I enjoy doing the podcasts anyway. Originally it was something I did just for the sake of it really but now they've started to become self-funding, so I make a little bit of money as well – and it's nice that it does have a knock-on with the other work too.
Having worked with various 'mainstream' broadcasters, you must enjoy the complete creative autonomy of podcasting compared to dealing with producers etc?
Yeah, that was one of things that really attracted me to podcasts. I still struggle to write scripts for TV and radio all the time – sometimes they get on or sometimes they get a certain distance and don't get on. I'd much rather be making stuff that was happening than being paid to write something that never sees the light of day.
Stand-up is very autonomous too obviously: I decide what my show will be and audience reaction would be the only real editing tool I would use, really.
You record episodes of RHLSTP in the midst of your stand-up touring, does that help break up the monotony?
Well, I don't get bored of doing the shows anymore because I'm always trying to perfect them – there's always bits that are looser and that you're finding new stuff in, but even the bits you know well you're trying to mine for new laughs or find new ways of doing them.
I did sometimes have a bad gig where I'd just put my head down and rush through it, but now I understand that you've got to try and get [the audience] on side, because if they don't like you they won't come and see you next year. You can't give in.
I love doing the podcasts, they are nearly always just terrific fun and every guest is different. It seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment. Even though I have to do a bit of research and a lot of concentration is required, it's minimal work to create something that I'm very very pleased with compared to writing a stand-up show, and I also get to meet dozens of very talented comedians and understand why they're so successful.
Also, I don't get any money for the tour for several months, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and be actually earning something from them so that I can keep my family alive for the two or three months until I get paid.
Richard Herring: Oh Frig, I'm 50!, April 4 & 5, Sugar Club, Dublin / April 6, Mandela Hall QUBSU. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.ie.