Agony Uncle Richard Herring gives comedy advice to Fringe newbies

Paul F Taylor, Gareth Morinan, Erich McElroy, Andrew Ryan and more receive some sage comedy wisdom


This article is from 2012.

Agony Uncle Richard Herring gives comedy advice to Fringe newbies

Performing at the Fringe for the first time can be a daunting prospect. If only someone was on hand to offer the comedy newbies some advice. Fear not, our Agony Uncle, Richard Herring, is here to ease their pain

Paul F Taylor

Do I have to draw a penis on all my show posters myself or will someone do that for me?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
This year in Edinburgh, thanks to the puritanical Fringe programme and City Council, all mention, implication or representation of male genitalia must be censored. Next year anyone found even concealing a penis will be imprisoned. The year after that, Edinburgh will be declared a new Amazon-style state, where only women are allowed. Although I abhor censorship, I think the Fringe will be better without men, so the ends justify the means. But if you value your life, keep your penis hidden at all times and pretend to be a lady.

Gareth Morinan

This year I am performing my first solo show, which is a change from my normal routine of performing as part of a line-up of comedians. On such nights I would normally ‘open’ my ‘set’ with a ‘call-back’ to the previous comedian’s joke mocking short-statured people (this often goes down a treat, as I myself am noticeably short). Later, I would ‘close’ my ‘set’ using an hilarious joke about how tall the compere is. Now that I am performing on my own, I cannot use any of my usual obvious hack jokes about height as there is no one else for the audience to compare me to. Given this, what is the best way to ‘open’ and ‘close’ my show?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
It’s a pain having to write new jokes or think of original jokes which don’t revolve around your personal appearance or resemblance to the offspring of two celebrities. I’d suggest you can avoid this problem by just getting them to set the mic stand much too high at the start: thus you can address your stature. Remove the mic from the stand and put it to one side, then at the end of the set when replacing the mic, the stand will still be too high and you can use your usual jokes. Good luck.

Erich McElroy

I’ve promised my wife that Edinburgh would make me famous and rich. At what point should I admit to her that I’ve lied?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
I have a very carefully worked-out 50-year plan for Edinburgh (I am 25 years in so far), and have produced a spreadsheet that gives the impression that the 49 years of financial loss will pay off with a spectacular return in 2037. What she doesn’t realise is that I will be dead by then, so the joke is on her.

Andrew Ryan

I want the press to be interested in my show but not sure I want to read what they say. So, reviews: to read, or not to read?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
I read all my reviews, even the crazy ones from lunatics on the internet. But it takes a stout heart and a balanced mind to be able to cope with negative criticism. And you’re a comedian, so you have neither of those. The best way to give yourself confidence is to only read the reviews of rival comics and only their bad ones. Don’t worry, there will be hundreds of comics ready to point these out to you. Then you can laugh together, blinkered to the fact that the other comedians are also doing this to your bad reviews.

Barry Morgan’s World of Organs

I’m trying to decide which organ to pack for Edinburgh. Could be Lowry the Teenie Genie with the Magic Genie Bass, but the Hammond Aurora with the sound of the Twin Leslies is sublime. Have you ever touched a Hammond and experienced the joy of the organ? And is it appropriate to wear a kilt whilst playing the organ?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
You want to be careful Barry. I know you are a serious musician, but in the puerile world of Edinburgh, some people would deliberately misinterpret your statement and your whole show to be about the penis (which is sometimes called an organ). To be honest I am disgusted with the Fringe programme for not censoring you too. Hypocrites. My choice would always be the Hammond Aurora and I would wear a kilt so that my cock was hanging out.

Alfie Brown

When I cum I cry, but when I cry I don’t necessarily cum. Is there something wrong with me?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
No, this is normal. If you came when you cried then after you had cried when you had cum you would cum immediately and then cry again and then cum again and it wouldn’t be long before you had ejaculated/wept yourself to death, your body a dried husk devoid of saline and zinc. Nature, in all its wonder, has created you with this safety valve of only finding sexual release mind-numbingly depressing, but not finding your own depression sexy to protect you from this desiccated salt-less, zinc-free future.

Doug Segal

One of the most difficult things about being a comedy mind-reader is that the average man thinks about sex every seven seconds. Unless the audience consists entirely of hen parties it’s like sitting in a Tourette’s convention. Any tips for how to best tune this out and focus on the show?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
Perhaps it’s best to just turn off your actual mind-reading skills and come up with some way of doing the same thing using some kind of subterfuge or trick. I know this will be harder to pull off given your natural skill, but the thing is, what most people think is best kept inside their heads. I think some terrible, terrible things. And when you look at the things that I DO say, you will realise that the things I don’t say must be horrendous. Why not just try book-reading or letter-reading? Or just read their T-shirts? And then look at their astonished faces when the things you just said are actually on their T-shirts.

Tom Flanagan (Kaput)

I once tried to get the attention of a cute girl in the front row, but I tripped over my ladder and face-planted in a bucket of glue. Do you have any advice for a single (incredibly clumsy) young man who is about to embark on 27 first dates in front of a live audience?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
It took me a while to learn this, but the first rule of pulling a member of the audience is to ensure that you haven’t brought your bucket of glue with you on stage. Even if you manage to avoid falling in it and get a date, you’re then lumbered with carrying a bucket of glue with you to the bar/restaurant, which can spoil the ambience. And at some point, the woman is bound to realise that the glue is made out of dead horses and then cry. Leave your glue bucket at home. I have also reached the point where I can do 90% of gigs without a ladder, but I have been going a long time, so don’t run before you can walk.

Garrett Millerick

This is my first year as a solo stand-up, and it’s worrying me that this could get slightly lonely. How would I say, ‘Please help me, my brain has capsized and I want a hug from my mum’, and make it sound like, ‘My show is phenomenally great, I’m having the time of my life, let’s have another drink’ to anyone not in the know?

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
Oh God, my abiding memory of the first 15 or so Fringes I did was of heart-wrenching loneliness, sitting in the Pleasance Courtyard drinking on my own, trying to look like that I wanted some me-time but hoping in my heart that someone (anyone) would come and talk to me. But they hardly ever did and I just went back to my flat and cried or watched repeats on Challenge TV and cried. But after those 15 Fringes, things were better for the next ten, when I just gave up on the sitting in the Courtyard bit and headed straight to the crying bit. This way, most people don’t even know that I am up at the Fringe because they never see me, so I don’t have to face up to their ‘judgement’ at my lack of social skills.

David Trent

My name is David Trent. I am a phenomenon. I have been in a relationship with a woman for so long that she has become my wife. We have two kids and we live in a house. In our house there is a kitchen. In the kitchen there is a cooking surface. It is for preparing food on and it is made of laminate. When I walk into the kitchen I often find my wife has left some mail or a statement or her notebook or her phone charger on the cooking surface. Sometimes a combination of all these things. I would prefer her to put the mail or the statement or her notebook or her phone charger in a drawer. When we upgraded our kitchen we got a set of drawers specifically for this but it didn’t make any difference to the situation.

The problem is, every time I wish to cook a meal I first have to clear away her stuff. I don’t know where it goes because it is not my stuff. The obvious solution would be to put it in the drawers but the drawers are full of other stuff. Instead I have to walk around shouting her name over and over again until she comes to take the stuff out of my hands. Sometimes I get a dirty look. All I want is a clean surface. This is ruining our marriage. Please help me.

Agony Uncle Richard Herring:
I have only recently married, but even so I think I am an expert on women and hope to cope with an unruly, messy or disobedient wife. What you have to do is just agree with everything she says and do everything she tells you and not make any kind of fuss. Perhaps you could secretly rent out another flat without her knowledge and do all your cooking in that. Though you might have some explaining to do if she ever finds out about your cooking-nest.

Richard Herring: Talking Cock – The Second Coming, Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, 4–26 Aug, 8.15pm, £14–£16 (£12–£14). Previews until 3 Aug, £10.
Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe Podcast, The Stand, 558 7272, 3–27 Aug (not 13), 2.15pm, £10 (£9). Preview 2 Aug, 4.10pm, £9 (£8).

This article is from 2012.

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