In our face

As you’ll all know, the belated, and long-awaited return to 6 Music of Adam and Joe was announced yesterday. The details are here. This is terrific news for fans of Adam and Joe, which includes me and Richard Herring. Although we applaud and welcome Joe’s success in filmmaking – the reason they took their sabbatical – it has been tough without their antics and chemistry and songmanship on Saturday mornings, one of the jewels in 6 Music’s crown, and one sorely missing during last year’s “troubles” (although Adam was a powerhouse of creative support).

The tickertape parades and hugging of strangers in the street is, however, tinged with sadness and unemployment. For the return of Adam and Joe spells the end of Collins and Herring. This radio station ain’t big enough for the four of us!

Richard and I were asked to fill in for Adam and Joe in February last year, when Danny Wallace, who had been filling in throughout January, went to America. At the time, as I recall, we were booked for six weeks. This was a thrill. We had, let’s be honest, always felt we might be a good fit for their show, and we were honoured to replace them. We cooked up some ropey feature ideas, clearly based on theirs – the Nerd Army task, Text The Station, Diary Wars – which somehow managed to sustain us for far more than six weeks! (I think someone on the Guardian message boards berated us for the derivative nature of our features. Well done for spotting that.) These features were our way of paying tribute to Adam and Joe, whose shoes were hard to fill.

How we’d laugh when the computer automatically fanfared the show with the announcement, “Right now … Adam and Joe!”, or when, a full year into our tenure, it still said we were “sitting in” on the readout of a digital radio. We never fooled ourselves that we were Adam and Joe (we categorically aren’t), but it was fun evolving our podcast relationship in more restricted, family-friendly circumstances, and having the freedom to play a record, or two records, to allow listeners a break, and to give us a chance to recharge. It has also been gratifying having two weekly podcasts for around 56 weeks: one, one clean, one unclean; one BBC-authorised, one Orange Mark-authorised.

As Richard is now off on tour, Michael Legge will be with me for the next four Saturdays, so I hope you will tune in and continue to supply us with the reliable material we have come to expect from a particularly in-tune and creative fanbase. There would be no show without your anecdotes. I know I speak for both of us when I say that we will miss this Saturday morning routine, from downstairs at Caffe Nero to the sometimes Mike Leigh-esque repartee between Richard and Liz Kershaw.

So, in your face, 6 Music. It seems that Collins & Herring are off the air. For now? I mean, we haven’t finished our 100 Objects, have we?

And then we were sick.


Princess street

A full and frank apology: I apologise for having a three-year-old laptop whose GarageBand application inexplicably crashed during the recording of yesterday’s live podcast, thus plunging it into audio limbo. I must be held responsible for having the laptop – and who else can be held responsible except for Steve Jobs? – and for optimistically thinking it would work, to the extent that I actually said, “It will work.” I also apologise for whatever evil force field keeps interfering with the efficiency of electrical appliances that come into my orbit in this city. This may still be my fault, but it is beyond my limited corporeal control. Perhaps I am going through the change.

I also apologise if I gave the impression that I managed to get to last night’s washing up first, as I had done the previous morning, when I successfully took the rubbish out while other flatmates slept. I did not get to the washing up first. In my defence, it was 2am when I came in after Political Animal, and I deliberately tiptoed to my room in order not to disturb my flatmates. (I even forewent using my electric toothbrush for the same reason. I am considerate.) By the time I came back to the flat after breakfast this morning, much of the washing up was done, so I did as much as I could and dried and put away anything that needed drying and putting away, and washed what was still soaking in the sink, and then dried and put that away. I am naturally sensitive to accusations of laziness, and wish to redress the karmic balance after failing to realise that the dishwasher doesn’t wash dishes after Sunday’s lunch. Anyway, I think the blazing husband-and-wifely row Richard and I had about this very issue, live, onstage, in front of upwards of 60 people in the hamster-powered GRV this afternoon was a useful cathartic experience in this regard. I will endeavour to do better.

The gig was, in many way, a welcome return to form. Not that anybody except the upwards of 60 people (figures seasonally adjusted) who witnessed yesterday’s, live, at the GRV, will ever know how we retreated from form in the first place. But we did, in terms of taste and entertainment value, especially me. Still, now that a platoon of willing nerds have had various cracks at retrieving the lost podcast file – particular, hands-on thanks to Justin, Tony and William – it seems clear that it will never be heard. Let’s move on.

We were bathed in celestial light at the GRV, as you can see, in Gordon’s latest roll of photographs, and hit something resembling a stride, thanks to a long and well considered scripted piece about lane etiquette at the swimming pool from Richard, a long and well considered scripted piece about jacuzzi stimulation from Richard, and a long and well considered scripted description of what he did to the books I bought him for his birthday. As ever, I kept my counsel, and occasionally went into the audience to give them scraps of paper, Have a listen. Thanks to the efforts of Orange Mark – and the inner workings of Richard’s laptop, which works – the podcast is already up to listen to. Two and a half hours after we finished recording it. Not bad.

We arrived back at the flat to find the jovial, well-tailored and reassuring Andre “Vinny” Vincent, who’s in town for a few days and staying with us. As he left the flat, with Tom Wrigglesworth, he was juggling some hats. Maybe he is the spirit of the Fringe? Richard Herring is certainly the spectre.

Arse market

Yes, sorry about that title. It’s a callback to Comedy Countdown, where the letters A, R, S and E came up, randomly, twice, so I asked for them to be pre-selected for the last round so that I, too, could make up a word with ARSE in it. (We’d had ARSEBILGE, for instance.) Up to that point I had been foolishly coming up with words that were real, and didn’t have ARSE in them.

A truly superb photo above by Green Gordon, taken at the Green Room Venue yesterday. Rather sad and poignant. Just as it would be if me and the comedian and man Richard Herring were sitting in the chairs.

I had my second review for Secret Dancing today. Again, it is not yet online, so I can’t link to it, and I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to actually type it out. It’s three stars in The Scotsman, and I think I am right in saying that Fiona Shepherd, who wrote it, also reviewed Lloyd Cole Knew My Father favourably in 2001. Because I came up here with modest ambitions, I am thrilled skinny by three stars, while three stars is like a broadsword in the heart to someone with previous form like, say, Richard Herring.

Clearly, being reviewed for stand-up is new for me. But I have had my books reviewed using the reductive star system, and the difference between four and three, or three and two, can be devastating – especially on Amazon, where your book’s star rating is a constant mean average, and one dissatisfied customer can bring your score down, thus literally acting as a sales-deterrent. In many ways, customer reviews are more democratic, and you get a better snapshot of the way your work is being received. They are also more cruel, as a really dissatisfied customer is more likely to feel moved to add their voice than someone who just quite liked your book.

At least with a star rating delivered from on high by a critic, even though it lingers next to your listing on their website, potentially acting as a box office repellent, it’s the opinion of one person. An opinion you can ignore if it is wrong, and stick on your poster if it is correct, like Fiona Shepherd’s. Veteran performers at Edinburgh as emotionally ruined as Richard Herring claim to be immune to the injustice of a bad review, but they are patently not.

Perhaps there should be a handicap system based upon years of service. For every five years you’ve been up here, a star is automatically added to any review. And for ten years, two stars. That would be fair.

If I were to review Christ On A Bike, which I can’t as I am too close to the spectre of its creator and star, I would give it five stars. We are all for sale in the Arse Market.

Pubic triangle

This is a photo, taken by Green Gordon, whose Flickr page is here, of Edinburgh’s Pubic Triangle, which Mat told me about yesterday. Apparently you join the dots between three massage parlours or something and it make a triangle of sleaze. He posted this in response to it coming up on today’s first Collings & Herrin Podcast Live gig at the GRV. Remember, in 2008, we tested the water by doing one gig, in the morning, at the Underbelly. Last year, we did five, again at the Underbelly. This year, it’s ten, in two sets of five, Wednesday to Sunday. We came to the GRV last year – it stands for Green Room Venue, unless the person who shouted that out was a trickster – to see Michael Legge and Johnny Candon shout some sketches. We are in what I think is the biggest of the three rooms at the GRV, in the basement, which, as you can see in these photos, taken by this laptop, seats around 80 nerds. In the first picture you will see a nice couple who happened to be ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend in the front row, and Green Gordon himself, spotlit, in the second row. All three of these people made the first podcast gig better, by willingly sitting in Richard Herring’s eyeline.

And in this picture, you will see a single woman in the front row, who willingly allowed Richard Herring to ascertain this piece of information, and a blonde woman in the second row, aisle seat, who seems suspiciously unhappy about being in the photograph at all. Don’t know who she was. Perhaps she is a criminal of some kind.

Anyway, we managed to get through a whole hour without having a single clue as to what we should say, but that’s the spirit of the podcast. It’s like being in Richard’s attic, except with 80 people laughing and not laughing at what we say. The people who work at the venue are very nice, and the dressing room behind the stage, which they apologised for, was the height of luxury, with sofas, and an empty fridge. Unlike the dressing room at the Underbelly we had last year, it did not have a pint glass full of piss in it.

Richard and I had been to the excellent City Cafe before the gig, to briefly skim the Scottish Mail and the Scotsman and the Scottish Sun, but frankly not find much in them to spark humorous banter. There, he ate some fish in beer batter, and due to his monk-like fruit-and-ice-lolly diet over the past month, the very presence of fat made him feel queasy. In the dressing room, he produced some gas which was as close as gas can come to being a solid without actually being a solid. I was forced to peel open a packet of Wet Ones wet wipes and stick my nose into its chemical nucleus. This, we decided, was the real “spectre of Herring,” and its threat of actual follow-through was indeed “never far behind.”

The podcast is already available from iTunes and the British Comedy Guide, thanks to the work of Orange Mark. This is its blurb:

In the first of ten live podcasts recorded at the GRV at the Edinburgh Fringe (but still officially number 122), we set the scene for our tenure in the land of the incomprehensible town name: the Young Ones-style flat, Justin Moorhouse’s role as the kitchen Buddha, the capacity of the tall bedrooms to accommodate a human pyramid featuring Tom Wrigglesworth and the tallest of the Penny Dreadfuls, and the intrigue of the washing up rota. Coping with the very real possibility of a beer-batter-related toxic accident, the spectre of Herring distracts himself by indulging in some PG-rated banter with our audience, some of which involves his “disco stick”. Sponsored by Wet Ones, which are just the thing after a wet one.

After the show, we sat in the amenable bar of the GRV, which is what we will do after every show, and communed with the nerds. Here are some, in another picture taken by the prolific, and insanely patient, Green Gordon, who does actually always wear green, like a member of Robin Hood’s merry band of outlaws, except armed with a camera.

So, only nine more to go.

In case you’re interested, Richard came to see Secret Dancing this lunchtime, and brought bad juju with him. Having pretty much nailed the technical side of Bannermans, thanks to Chris who works there, and the ever-present Mark, Frog and Charlotte, it was something of a disappointment to find, at midday, that the PA wasn’t working. Chris and another man also with tattoos did a valiant job of replacing fuses, but it was not going to be, so I had to do my show acoustically, using the natural resonance of the space, and forgo the three bits with music. We had another full house though, and although to do this more than once would kill my voice, I think it was OK. I even fell off the stage at one point, but recovered by pretending I wanted to go down into the audience. I didn’t.

It’s good to have a technical upset. We coped. It’s what we do. We did not panic.

In private, Richard told me he thought my show was good, but would deny this in a court of law, instead spending the whole of the podcast mocking me for the amateur nature of my Lenny Bruce-style assault on live comedy. I think I am too edgy for Richard, who is more of a light entertainer.

What a lovely way to spend the evening – it had to happen – staying in, eating bagels, drinking herbal tea and watching the semi-finals of Celebrity Masterchef, followed by an engrossing talk about food and cooking with Tom, back in from his show. Richard and his imaginary girlfriend are now watching Sherlock, so I am hiding.

Because it has been a Wednesday, I have also been doing my Radio Times work, remotely. Having produced 600 words on Amy Adams, I still have to review Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, so I must stop here. Oh, and Richard left his bank card in the City Cafe, and someone handed it in at his venue. What a nice city.