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Guest Editor Richard Herring

By | Published on Wednesday 10 August 2011

Richard Herring

Comedy musings from our first Guest Editor of 2011, the King Of Edinburgh (obviously) Richard Herring.

Hello, it’s me, the King Of Edinburgh. This is an unofficial title that I have decided to bestow on myself, partly because I know no one else ever will, but mainly because I think if people begin to refer to me by that moniker (even ironically) it won’t be long before the name sticks.

“Have you seen the King of Edinburgh?”

“Who is that?”

“Don’t you know? It’s Richard Herring”.

“Oh right. OK, if you say so”.

I’m sure this tactic is the explanation for the success of some of our more notable comics. They started spreading fantastical statements about themselves, which eventually got quoted as fact. So do your bit by only referring to me as the King of Edinburgh from now on. As if that’s what everyone does and only an idiot wouldn’t know that. If nothing else it will piss off Prince Phillip.

And maybe I almost deserve it. After all, this is my 20th Edinburgh Fringe. I first came up here in 1987 with a sketch group called ‘The Seven Raymonds’ (there were six of us and none of us were called Raymond – genius) and have created or co-created 32 different shows since then. Some of you are here to get discovered or get on TV – good luck with that (you fools) – but you soon sort the phonies from the slightly less phony by looking at who keeps coming here once opportunity has knocked.

On the face of it the two comedians I have chosen to interview in this edition of ThreeWeeks could not be more different: the avuncular, loveable Barry Cryer and the vitriolic, terrifying Jerry Sadowitz (page 9 here). But they are two of the comedians that I admire most in the world, despite their wildly contrasting styles and outlooks.

Barry has worked with all the comedy greats for over 50 years and clearly still loves comedy and other comedians. Many others from his generation became bitter about the kind of comedy that came after them, but Uncle Baz has stayed engaged and interested and happy to pass on his undoubted wisdom. I aspire to still be working when I am his age, and to still love the business of making people laugh as much as he does.

Jerry, on stage at least, is twisted with anger and bitterness and seems to hate other comedians almost as much as he hates himself. He turns profanity and offence into an art form. He will leave you gasping for breath with laughter and then just gasping at the awful things he has said. You will certainly be offended, unless you are a moron, and yet in a sense you’d have to be a moron to be genuinely offended. Some shock comics seem to be bullies punching downwards (when a millionaire comedian mocks an actual 8 year old disabled boy it surely becomes just cruelty rather than humour), but Jerry is so low status that whoever he attacks he is punching upwards and his material is so artfully constructed that he always ends up hitting himself in the face. He is, I believe, the most underrated comedy genius that these islands have ever produced. But perhaps the success he deserves would destroy the whole conceit.

By the way have you seen my ThreeWeeks quote? Apparently I am “the King of Edinburgh”. I’m putting that on all my posters. This is the most humble day of my life.

Richard’s show ‘What Is Love Anyway’ was on at Udderbelly’s Pasture at Fringe 2011.