Hitting the half-century and apparently a much calmer and more sensible man now than when he wrote Oh Fuck I’m 40!, Richard Herring talks to Max Harvey about his latest show, Oh Frig I’m 50.
Richard Herring is not as famous as perhaps he should be. He’s been working as a comedian for over 25 years, but after near-stardom as one half of Lee & Herring in the 1990s, he’s returned to the public eye thanks mainly to his superb Leicester Square podcasts, interviewing everyone from Russell Brand to Stephen Fry. And now he’s touring new standup material – hitting the road as he hits 50…
You did a show about being 40. Were you apprehensive about the big 5-0?
I was less worried than when I hit 40, but I still can’t quite believe it as 50 is properly old, you know? When I hit 40 I had a bit of a midlife crisis, but I’m married with a kid and another on the way, so I’m not upset about hitting 50, just incredulous about it. My grandmother said when she was 85 that she still felt 23 and I understand that. When I was a teenager, 50 seemed like old age, but I don’t feel old now as I spend my time acting like a child – and I’m more comfortable with that dichotomy than I was when I was only 40.
Can you tell me a little about the show? What’s changed since Oh Fuck I’m 40?
Well, for one thing, my wife sort of saved me. And my kids have given me a focus that I needed. The lifestyle I was leading was self-driven and egotistical. I’ve seen enough entertainers go off the rails or lose track of who they are, so I consider myself lucky to have my family to motivate me. I’ve got other people to think about now, so I haven’t had as much time to worry getting older, which is partly what the new show is about.
Essentially it’s about me ageing – coming to terms with changes and comparing it to being 40. At 50, you start to realise that you are part of a bigger picture. Having kids means you’re really just a link in the chain and even if you don’t have kids, you’re still just a passing blip in the universe. So the show’s about ego, but mainly about dealing with becoming (and feeling) increasingly decrepit.
What advice might you pass on to your kids?
I guess they have to make their own mistakes. I can see my daughter’s [who is 3] personality strongly already and though you can help your child not go too far down the wrong road, ultimately they will be who they’re going to be. And I wouldn’t have listened to a 50-year-old when I was 16 so I can’t expect my kids to.
Much of your resurgence came as a result of podcasting – is this how performance is evolving?
When I started, you had to work for ages to get an actual radio show. Now you can make a radio show from your house, pretty much for free, so there’s more opportunities. I think that’s exciting and will hopefully lead to interesting content as you don’t have people telling you what you can and can’t do, as with TV and radio now. When Chaplin got rich, he did it by charging everyone a few cents, but if a billion people give you 1p, you’re a millionaire.
What I like about the podcast is that the people who can afford to pay for it pay for it, and others get it for free. I think they feel some ownership and therefore are happier than they might normally be to cough up a bit for it. I like that it creates a little bit of happiness, while still supporting the work, so everyone wins.
Richard Herring: Oh Frig, I’m 50! St. David’s Hall, Sat 24 Feb. Tickets: £19.50. Info: 029 2087 8444 / www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk