It’s a bit confusing. I posted this earlier, but felt it was too personal, on reflection, and removed it, so as not to add to what had turned into a bit of a deluge of goo. But, having taken down my bit, I also had to take down the comments, which seemed a bit harsh, on further reflection. So I’m putting it back up. But please don’t post abusive comments, as many were doing. They won’t be published, so you won’t look clever in front of anybody. If you find this whole issue self-indulgent, then back away. Go and read something else.
It’s important that you know: I have posted Richard’s response to this blog entry at the end of the blog entry. This was never intended to be “my” side of the story, simply my response to the confusion and speculation that built up in cyberspace around vagueness. My point of view is only half of the picture. Richard’s point of view is the other half. His response is now added to this entry at the bottom.
Look at the two happy friends in the above picture. This was taken almost a year ago, and shows me (right) giving a birthday present to Richard Herring (left) on the Saturday closest to his birthday, in the 6 Music offices. We were at the 6 Music offices because, in July last year, we were almost six months into our stint in the Adam & Joe slot on Saturday mornings, having been booked for a month in February initially. What fun we had. The only downsides to the run that eventually lasted 13 months were a) not knowing how long it would last, which prevented us from ever feeling secure – and we were still billed as “in for Adam and Joe” months into our stint on the scrolling text on DAB radios and other electronic guides – and b) having to work around Richard’s touring, and around Edinburgh, which took us both out of action for a month in August.
This week, as fans of the Collings & Herrin Podcast will know, we put out some “pretend podcasts” from November and December 2006, when Richard used to be a guest on my then-regular 6 Music weekend shows, and we would review the newspapers in a humorous and irreverent way. Listening to these recordings now – which were never podcasts, it’s just a half-hour of radio with the music cut out for copyright reasons – it’s amazing how young and silly and in love we sound! Little wonder that, a year after I stopped having a regular 6 Music show, we sought to recreate this exciting and natural chemistry by starting a podcast in Richard’s house.
That was in February 2008, after a year of not doing anything together. At that time, I wasn’t even being asked to deputise (or “dep”) at 6 Music, as I had seemingly fallen out of favour with the station’s bosses. Who needs them, I thought. So it was that Richard and I embarked upon our podcasting adventure, pretty soon falling into a rhythm of producing an hour of unedited, unscripted, unrehearsed nonsense every week, in his attic, using GarageBand and the in-built mic on my laptop. Collings & Herrin were born.
Over the next three years, we would not only keep this ridiculous podcast up, and pre-record podcasts to fill in the gaps when Richard was on tour or on holiday (I was seemingly never away), we also branched out into live performance, where our podcast relationship was made flesh for paying punters. The format stayed the same. But we changed. The podcast Richard became more and more dominant, and the 6 Music Andrew, the one who used to be in charge on the radio, became the butt of many of the podcast Richard’s jokes and tirades. The irony was: in real life, we became closer.
When, in February last year, our podcasting reputation had finally earned us a shot at doing a radio show and we landed the prestigious Adam & Joe slot when Joe had to go off and make a hit movie, we were chuffed. Even though we were now equals, I knew how to “drive” the desk, so took charge of the buttons and faders. Also, Richard made no secret of the fact that he didn’t much care about the music we were playing. This became part of our 6 Music schtick – we even built in a silly feature where I would “teach” Richard how to use the desk and he would press the wrong button (a rare example of something that was almost planned and rehearsed!) – and nobody seemed to object.
However, come the end of 2010, as if perhaps to compensate for the fact that I had my hands on the faders and Richard had never been given an email address, he grew more and more dominant on 6 Music, just as he had done on the podcast. The line between Herring and Herrin grew more blurred. I could see the comedy value in being the “victim”, as, for most of the time, I knew I wasn’t really the victim, and that most people who listened knew that. (Part of the real Richard, the one who is my friend, really does think I am an “idiot” but it’s not the whole story, clearly.) I personally think we allowed the podcast relationship to infect the radio show, and by Christmas, it had changed.
Meanwhile, over the preceding year, I had become 6 Music’s “super sub”, filling in for pretty much any presenter who was ill, pregnant or on holiday. This was a development that I relished, as I love being on 6 Music on my own, and I love having the freedom to do other stuff while still being a “regular” on the network. I enjoyed doing the show with Richard on a Saturday, and with Michael Legge when Richard was gigging, but the solo shows were, and are, much less stressful. Richard delights in pushing the envelope, and always has done. This is even evident back in 2006, if you listen to the archive. It’s what makes him brilliant and “edgy” (sorry to use a commissioning editor’s buzzword) and vital. He is a unique professional comedian who occupies an increasingly enviable position in the comedy firmament: he plays by his own rules, plays to larger and larger audiences, and is now regularly invited on telly (despite his protests to the contrary). He works incredibly hard, and deserves every ounce of this success. I know he has moments of insecurity and doubt, but then, so do all comedians. It’s a competitive business, and one that favours the young and the new, so to maintain a viable career by gigging and writing new material, and branching out, for 20 years or more is no mean feat.
Me? I had a stab at stand-up – ironically, because of the confidence that working with Richard had given me – but I am not deluded about it. I am not a comedian. I am a writer, and I am a broadcaster. These are the areas that might just continue to provide a career for me. Not comedy, or at least, not performance comedy. I envy Richard in many ways. His hard work is paying off. He is known as a pioneer in new media, and although I have had a hand in that, it’s through AIOTM that he’s made the biggest mark. I was never going to be a part of AIOTM – it was Richard’s brainchild, and it was his project, and it would be separate to Collings & Herrin. I understood that.
I was, of course, the fictionalised butt of a lot of the jokes on AIOTM, and I think my discomfort at some of that is pretty well know, but Richard was respectful enough to pull back on that, and even invited me onto the stage, twice, to reclaim some dignity. I appreciated that. But AIOTM was Richard’s thing, Richard’s success, Richard’s cult, Richard’s Sony nomination. Just as Richard Herring’s Objective is Richard’s thing. And his Edinburgh shows are Richard’s things. I have my things, which are, currently, a Guardian TV review, a slot on Zoe Ball’s programme, and … yes, my regular solo work on 6 Music.
So, when 6 Music asked me to pilot a show with Josie Long, with a view to trying it out on air in July when Adam & Joe’s latest bloc of shows ended, I was up for it. The writing had been on the wall for Collins & Herring on 6 Music from Christmas. We’d had a couple of run-ins, which we don’t need to rake over, and all I can say is, I’m glad our last shows together on the network were less grumpy and shouty, and I think we ended on a good note. Which is why, understandably, many of our listeners, and podcast fans, are disappointed that Richard and I will not be filling in for Adam & Joe in July. Instead, it will be me, with another comedian. Josie and I have been given five Saturday shows, after which she, like everybody else in comedy, will be in Edinburgh.
Richard knows Josie better than me, although I have come to know her through the gigs that I have done for Robin Ince and Martin White. We are not forming a double act. We are co-hosting some shows, to see how they go. I think Josie will be great. I’m still kind of there to push the buttons and the faders. I appreciate that not all of our old listeners will like this change. But I hope they give Josie a chance. I don’t need to be given a chance. I’m an old 6 Music war veteran in comparison to Josie. It’s her moment, not mine.
So, Richard is cross that I have agreed to do a show on 6 Music without him, and with someone else. I respect him and his reasons for being cross. But I was not secretive about what was going on. And he knows that I rely on 6 Music now for a good chunk of my work. I have been a 6 Music presenter since 2002. I had a show on the first day ever of 6 Music. It was through my regular show that I was able to get Richard on, first on Roundtable, then as a regular guest. Our chemistry began to bubble up on 6 Music. But we both have separate careers, and always have had.
Richard is doing a run of solo podcasts in Edinburgh. Brilliant. I will download and listen to them all, and wish I was up there with him. But I can’t afford the time or the money or the stress to go to Edinburgh. If I was going up, I feel sure we would be doing the podcasts together. But I am not a comedian, and I have no right to be up there. Also, the summer months offer up many “deps” at 6 Music, which, as I believe I have made clear, take priority. We’re all self-employed; we all have to take our work where we can get it.
I love Richard Herring, in a funny sort of way. The penultimate time we saw each other was when we went to see Seinfeld – a great evening with my friend! I am sad that my decision to take a job without him has made him cross, and uncomfortable. But this is why the C&H podcast is on a break. We are on a break. I think, like a married couple, we will weather the break, and in fact, the break will do us good. We have both been working too hard.
I felt I should express my feelings about this before my first show with Josie, this Saturday, to clear the air. (Richard wrote about it on his blog yesterday, albeit more briefly than this.) I suspect Richard will not be listening on Saturday. But then, he claims not to listen to anything I do without him, or indeed listen to our podcast. He won’t have listened to the “pretend podcasts” from 2006. If he did, I think he would be amazed how sunny and equal and silly we sound.
I hope we will be sunny and equal and silly again.
Richard’s response (which was posted below) is now added to this entry, for full disclosure and fairness. I am grateful that he added it.
The issue for me is not that Andrew is doing a show with someone else – of course he should be allowed to do work on his own and with other people. But I think to do the same slot that we were doing with someone else is disloyal to the friendship that Andrew (sincerely) professes here. It’s personal choice and Andrew is entitled to make that, but if the roles had been reversed I would not have considered doing the same slot with someone else for a second. Because I know it would have been upsetting and humiliating for him. I too feel quite humiliating and I think it would have been easy for Andrew to decline doing these five weeks work because it put him in a difficult position and that would not have affected his other work with 6Music. If 6Music had given the slot to someone else entirely then that would have been sad, but at least we’d have stayed united as a double act. I don’t think Andrew considered the impact of his decision at the time, but that in itself to me speaks volumes.
I have worked hard on trying to help him out by buying equipment for the show and paying for entry to the Sonys (cos he couldn’t afford to), selling his DVDs at gigs and keeping the 6Music show going during tours when I should really have been resting. I also very much wanted to do the Collings and Herrin podcast in Edinburgh but Andrew couldn’t make the commitment. I wouldn’t have minded any of that, but then the decision to do a slot that we’d made (temporarily) our own with someone else seems to show a lack of commitment to the double act that makes it harder for me to justify spending my already stretched time on it.
I suspect we will ride this out. I have always made time for C&H both on podcast and radio before however busy I’ve been- and it was a massive strain to keep the radio show going on last year’s tour. I am very busy at the moment and after Andrew’s decision I don’t feel that I should be pushing myself so hard if it’s something that he can treat so casually. He told me he as doing the show in advance, but as a fait accompli. I wouldn’t have minded so much if he has discussed it and offered to take into account my feelings on this.
The thing is that even if it isn’t an intentional slap in the face, it really reads like one. Whether it’s from 6Music or Andrew or both. I will probably get over it. Or maybe from the comments above about the imbalance in the relationship it might be time to take a longer break from it or stop. We were only doing it for fun and if it stops being fun then maybe we shouldn’t do it.
I don’t think that will impact on our personal friendship (and I suggested the break partly to make sure we didn’t) and I have enjoyed the stuff we’ve done and am grateful to Andrew for supporting me at a time when a lot of people didn’t give a fuck. But I am a person for whom loyalty is the most important thing and so in a sense that makes this decision a bit harder to make
Don’t give Andrew a hard time about it. I am sure the show with Josie will be great. And this is is in no way her fault. I think it’s an odd decision by Andrew to be honest, but he’s made it now. I guess it’s the fact that ironically enough I saw him as a friend rather than a colleague (we always joked it was the other way round) that has made this a harder thing to take. But I have taken knocks in this business many times before and I am not being precious or looking for sympathy, and I hope I am not being over sensitive, just trying to explain my feelings about it.
The irony is not lost on me that we’ve reached this situation because Andrew has offended me. But in the podcast the offensive things I have said were almost always just jokes. And this is real.
And I worry that it’s something that will affect our dynamic if we do try and do more stuff.
It’s great that you all care so much and even greater that you’re (mainly) not taking sides.Mummy and daddy will sort this out in time. We still both love you very much. It’s nothing that you’ve done.
PS: I have disabled comments on this blog post because it’s taking up way too much of my time moderating them (and believe me, they need moderating). Also, this way, Richard gets the last word on the matter.