25 years in showbiz


As 2013 fades from view, and with it, one largely overlooked anniversary – that is, My First 25 Years In Showbiz – I ponder the fact that I had once considered actually marking my silver jubilee in the media with some kind of tour, or one-man show, but I seem to have settled with some determination into scriptwriting (under which umbrella I include script editing) as my chief creative outlet in recent years, and even radio seems to be fading now, so it seems more suitable to simply mark its passing with a blog entry. Writing prose for free: that sums up my current lot, too.

My quarter-century is well documented, not least in my third memoir That’s Me In The Corner, which you can now buy as an eBook for £5.42 from the evil, tax-avoiding Amazon. (I can’t. Or at least, I can, but I don’t have a Kindle to load it up onto.) So I thought I might cut the yakkin’ and sum up 25 years of indecision and happy accident in a single image. The grab above was captured from the studio webcam of what was the main 5 Live studio in Television Centre, a building now cruelly and unsentimentally condemned. I think an eagle-eyed listener grabbed it, and sent it to me. If it was you, raise your hand: it’s a superb shot. I’m dating it back to circa 2009? I am clearly waiting for the light to go green. My best guess is that I was filling in for Mark Kermode – a gig that I haven’t done since I was pushed off the subs’ bench by Simon Mayo’s producer and replaced by Nigel Floyd and Boyd Hilton because their names rhyme – and Simon was broadcasting from a sporting event, possibly the cricket, which is why the studio was otherwise empty. There I am, on my own, waiting, with my BBC canteen coffee, summing up my own career!

Actually, the very fact that it’s indistinct is perfect. Here are a few other images that either give me a Proustian rush or say something thematic about the past 25 years.


I’m rather tempted to leave them uncaptioned. Let the images speak for themselves. If they say anything, it’s that I have spent a good chunk of the past 25 years being around famous and talented people and not complaining or being self-conscious about that fact. Not always by the side of a lake in Sweden, as above, usually in front of “branding”, but in the vicinity of talent, and that’s the key.

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This one needs captioning. It’s the mighty 6 Music team finally winning Digital Radio Station of the Year at the Sonys in 2012. I was not there, which is the significant part. I celebrated their win anyway.

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C&H166I hope you enjoyed that visual celebration of not knowing what to do with myself for 25 years. (My home life has been, it must be said, a whole lot less chaotic.) Let’s get on with the 26th and make it so boringly focussed, there’ll be nothing to illustrate it with bar a selfie of me at my laptop.

Happy New Year!


Together again, at last

After a punishing 14 months in the wilderness, I was called up for prattling duty on the Word Podcast on Friday. It’s available here. I don’t mind telling you: I asked. As what a rare treat it always is to shoot the breeze, trade quips and occasionally draw breath with David Hepworth, Mark Ellen and Fraser Lewry (who took the pic above). We covered all sorts, including Marley (which I hadn’t seen on Friday), Levon Helm’s name, the intricacies of Christopher Guest, South-East Asian cuisine and … sorry, I’ve just remembered, you have to be a Word subscriber to hear the whole thing, but there’s a free 15-minute taster for all. Why wouldn’t you subscribe to Word anyway? You can do that here. Tremendous value, tons of benefits etc. Not only would you be helping to keep a thinking person’s monthly magazine of the old school alive – one that’s published by a small, independent publisher, lest we forget – you’d be allowing middle-aged men (and one younger woman) like these the opportunity to exchange hoary old rock anecdotes and dismiss entire modern conventions with the phrase “all that palaver” in a cupboard on a weekly basis.

Incidentally, the photo above refers to a story Mark tells about Lucinda Williams. I won’t spoil it.

A lotta meatballs

It’s been a looooooong time coming, and it was originally logged in the wrong category, and for some reason it’s UK only, and the picture used to illustrate it is all out of perspective and makes me look like a ventriloquist’s dummy … but it’s nice to be back in podcast form, with Josie, and tucked inside the 6 Music portfolio. You may now subscribe via iTunes and listen to 50 minutes of the non-music bits from Saturday’s show on the very first Andrew Collins and Josie Long podcast. I guess in some ways it’s a luxury to have done five Saturday morning shows that weren’t made into podcasts; in any case, here we are, bedded in, getting used to each other, mucking about, starting with one thought and ending up on an entirely different one, and reliant, as ever, on your contributions in terms of jingles, texts, emails and Twitter contributions. It’s a fun show to do. Josie’s enthusiasm is quite extraordinary, and it’s hard to imagine anyone so grateful and delighted to be on the radio. It’s her show, really, and I’m happy to help. This week, with your assistance, we invented a band, Dublin Robot, who now have a detailed backstory, again thanks to your archaeological input, and whose first record we intend to play next Saturday.

As if often the way with new podcasts, thanks to the unique (ie. arcane) way in which iTunes calculates their “popularity”, we rose like a bubble to the top of the charts yesterday. Here is the evidence, which is important, as we’ve dropped out of the Top 10 already, as the world grows bored of something so old. But it was nice to be there for a bit.

We actually got as high as number 4 after I’d taken this grab. And we were number one in the Music podcasts, which is a bit mad, as it isn’t one. Now it’s been re-categorised as a Comedy podcast but isn’t in the Comedy podcast charts. Ah well. By the way, sorry it’s UK only; I suspect that’s to do with the licensing of the snatches of music that still find their way into the podcast via beds and intros/outros. It certainly seems to be the case with other podcasts from 6 Music. Hey, subscribe, artificially push us momentarily back up the charts for no discernible reason!

Or just tune in on Saturdays, 10am-1pm, for as long as it lasts. You never can tell.

In other podcast news, thanks to Graham Tugwell, we have two more Collins & Herring Pretend Podcasts from the 6 Music archives in the tank, ie. I’ve sent the files and blurbs over to the British Comedy Guide for processing. So listen out for those. These are the final Tugwell Tapes, Pts 5 and 6, and feature two “deps” Richard and I did in 2009. Check the BCG for updates. Maybe the next one will be a real one?

A personal explanation

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.

Hen’s teeth

A rare chance this year to see me and Richard Herring live. I have, as you know, retired from stand-up, but I am happy to podcast live with Richard should the opportunity arise, and it has. Here’s how it has come about: Go Faster Stripe will be filming Richard’s current, one-Christian-boycott-per-every-two-towns show Christ On A Bike at the trusty Leicester Square Theatre on Wednesday May 18. Directly after the show, at 10pm, we will be doing a live podcast as an exclusive, filmed extra for the eventual COAB DVD. This will not be released as a regular, audio podcast, so you’ll have to come along, or buy the DVD, to see it.

You can buy a double ticket to both shows for £25, or for either of the individual shows for £15 (buy COAB tickets here; and podcast tickets here). I think this is a good deal. Your money will help pay for the filming costs. It’s a bit like being a Marillion fan. The image above shows how many nerds – in grey – have already bought tickets for the podcast show, over two months in advance. So get in now. Because it will be a non-topical podcast, we’ll be canvasing the audience for subjects and questions to talk rubbish about. In other words, you’ll be a part of the show. It should be a memorable and very long night. (Less long if you only buy a single ticket.)

See you there. Hens do not have teeth.

Oh, and Secret Dancing DVD coming soon. Advertisement ends.

Torch wood

Back in Cardiff for another insanely packed, physically and emotionally draining day of comedy. Richard and I did this for the first time in January; we spent the day recording four, new, exclusive podcasts in a studio at Ty Cerdd, the Welsh Music Centre, within the magnificent bowels of the Millennium Centre for commercial CD release through Go Faster Stripe, and in the evening, bandit-moustachioed impressario Chris Evans Not That One, booked us a gig by which to pay the overheads. In January, we played the bar of the mighty St. David’s Hall. It was a ridiculous task to set ourselves: improvise, from scratch, four and a half hours of conversation around loose themes (in that case, The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire (and Water) – see: Go Faster Stripe for details), then come up with a further one hour, six minutes and 35 seconds of topical improvisation before a baying, and paying, Cardiff audience. We managed it, and the results were OK – the gig was particularly enjoyable – but who but fools would attempt to recreate that magic?

We travelled down to Cardiff on Tuesday afternoon so that we would be fresh and well rested for our long day yesterday. Unfortunately, despite friendly staff, an Ikea makeover, an evil Nespresso machine in every room and good breakfast buffet items, the Cardiff Novotel decided to wake Richard up at 5.30am with a surreal alarm call that made CBeebies come on his telly*. Not a great start to the day, even with an evil cup of capsule-generated, baby-killing Nespresso to follow. (I slept well, thank you for asking, despite two Cobras at Chris’s favourite Indian restaurant, and the familiar 3am internal alarm call of the unfamiliar bed and alcohol combination.) Still, somehow, we managed to create four new podcasts, in studio conditions, on the themes hinted at by the new CD’s title, War & Peace, Crime & Punishment, which Chris hopes to have on sale within a couple of weeks.

This was my third time in this studio, with its grand piano and futuristic, Unknown Pleasures-style foam walls, as I recorded my audiobook of Where Did It All Go Right? here in 2009 (also available etc. etc.), and once again it was an occasion marked by bottles of water, occasional cups of coffee, that little table, not a whiff of wi-fi signal and men staring at us through the glass from the control room – this time, Chris, Felix and Isaac, who actually introduced himself to us as “Work Experience Boy”, as if his job had subsumed his very name – who did us the great honour of providing the occasional burst of laughter that was, unprofessionally, audible in the studio, through the glass. You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before you can hear the results: by turns strained, serious, ridiculous, philosophical, hysterical, grumpy, quiet, loud, peaceful and warlike. This can surely be no way to make a living.

Packing up at 5.30 there was no time for a jacuzzi at the Novotel, and barely time for one evil, developing-world-destroying Nespresso capsule, as I had to run through Secret Dancing in my room, a show I have not performed since August 21 and will never perform again, or at least that’s the mercurial plan. The talented Nathan Jay had created some music tracks for us to play out where there would normally be tracks by BAD, the Wiseguys, Mark Ronson and the Sugababes, as we can’t afford to licence existing music. I practised to these in front of the hotel mirror. By 7.30 Richard and I were skulking in the kitchen at the Masonic Hall, our dressing room for the night, having wandered, wide-eyed, through the lobby, past portraits of important looking middle-aged men in embroidered aprons, some actual middle-aged men in their civvies, and a stairlift to help elderly or infirm Masons up to their secret chambers. This was a weird place to do a comedy gig, and the room booked had a huge, impressive domed roof, but we made it our own, by constantly referring to it, and to The Da Vinci Code.

And here’s the portrait of the Queen, whom the Masons really like, who watched us from the back wall throughout:

Secret Dancing went well, and I remembered what order it all went in, although it was a weird experience after mostly doing it in a dark bunker in Edinburgh; despite being a seasoned stand-up, I have never done a gig that was being filmed for future DVD release and thus all the house lights were up and I could see the whites of even the back row’s eyes as they either laughed or didn’t laugh, or, in the case of Richard, who sat at the back, seemed to doze off, dreaming of CBeebies, unless he was playing a game on his iPhone, which would be business as usual. Have a look at the Torchwood-loving, Strictly-denying Cardiff nerds we spent two hours looking at:

Here’s me, Secretly Dancing, or at least talking about Secretly Dancing, or indeed Secretly Milking (my carefully timed one-hour Edinburgh show lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, as I must admit I savoured this last performance of it):

And here’s us, in our Masonic thrones (which did have strange symbols carved into their high backs):

Anyway, the audio podcast itself, Number 138, is available to download here. Thanks to the Masonic Hall, Chris Evans Not That One, Gerald, Felix, Sue and all the crew, all of my Secret Dancers, anyone we picked on, especially Jeff and Bec, Rasputin and London Irish II, and to Phil Jones, Mike Griffiths, and PennyWisePeter for the bootleg photos. It was a long night, and a long day, but all the better for being in a city that has been so kind to us while raining on us at the same time.

*Mr Richard Herring now accepts that he may actually have left his telly on, and that CBeebies may have just started broadcasting at 5.30am, but we may never know. Either way, just in case, he’s not suing the Novotel chain, or George Clooney.

Play fair, steps

Last day in Edinburgh for me, and the last of the Collings & Herrin Podcast shows. [Nice shot by Gordon Hodgson, above.] I must admit, it was a pleasure, for the first time this Edinburgh, to wake up in the morning and not have to think about doing Secret Dancing. After 16 consecutive shows, during which my life has hardened into a routine which allows for very little improvisation other than which outlet to sit and eat my mind-and-stomach-settling breakfast in (Foodies? Henderson’s? Black Medicine?), it was lovely to get up a bit later, take it easy, mine the papers a little more carefully for stories, and know that the only performing I’d be doing was the podcast, which by its nature can’t really be prepared for. (Ironically, I came to it armed with a lot more stories, but none of these really made it better!)

So, there we were, on the plastic chairs at the tin table for the tenth and final time this Fringe. Because Saturday’s, Podcast 130, was – by accident rather than design – my favourite, this final one had disappointment built in. And maybe the fact that I wasn’t energised by having just come offstage at my own show put me off my stroke. I was certainly not excited. And I was a bit irritable, which is no state to be in, as listeners to the live podcasts will know. Maybe ten is too much. Maybe the venue is too small and long. Either way, 131 was a bit strange, and not especially uproarious.

Still, it’s in the bag. You can download it here, and here is the official blurb:

In the final live Collings & Herrin Podcast from the GRV in Edinburgh, we go out in a significant lack of style. We should have ended it after 130, but no, it was almost as if we were committed to do 131, and treated it as just that: an obligation, with no joy or narrative denouement whatsoever, despite a big pile of prizes for the nicest audience members, including a Millie’s Cookies loyalty card, an Apostrophe (whatever that is) loyalty card, a McDonald’s loyalty card and a Piemaker loyalty card, as well as some Space Dust Which Isn’t Space Dust. Andrew gets booed again for mentioning the name of M*ddy – par for the course, now – Richard is sexually frustrated by the lack of women in the front row and is forced instead to imagine having a strawberry tattooed in a private place and smearing it with clotted cream, and we unearth a single X-Factor fan in our audience, and four Top Gear fans, one of whom is female. It’s either the best one yet, or the worst, and certainly our last for a long, long while. So tuck in.

And here are the final audience.

After the podcast, I went for Sunday lunch with my friends Tony and Helen. They made the lunch. It was tremendous, and a rare moment of civilisation away from the madness of the Fringe and grubbiness of the student living. Unfortunately, I drank a couple of glasses of wine and was so dozy could have fallen asleep on their sofa directly afterwards, which would have been impolite. Instead, I came back to the Young Ones flat and went to bed. I am exhausted. I woke up, too late to go out carousing on my last night, as planned, and instead finished my column – about the Fringe – for Word magazine, and sat around in the living room with Richard and Tom, half-watching The Xtra Factor. Actually, it was a sociable and low-key way to end the festival. (For me; all of my flatmates, who are comedians, have another week to go – in Richard’s case, his last show is next Monday, that’s eight shows away.)

Thanks to all who made the Fringe so much fun, and such a milestone: Charlotte, Mark, Frog, Theo, tattooed Chris and the staff at Bannermans, Lindz and the staff at the GRV, Lisa and Jon and all at the Five Pound Fringe, Peter, Al, Simon, Kate and all at the Free Fringe, Agent Kate, Robin, Carrie, Michael, James, Muki, Sarah, Gary, Tara, Carl, Jim Bob, Martin, Danielle, Foz, David, Emma, Dan, Margaret, Ben, Mat, Lesley, Al, Helen, Iain, Greg, Matt, Tony, Helen, all of Legge’s Lovelies … and especially, my flatmates Richard, Tom, Justin and, briefly, Vinny.

Now to catch my train.

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.

Black watch

Disaster struck twice today. First, just over five minutes before the end of our second GRV Collings & Herrin podcast show – which had, admittedly, been a weird one, and was in the process of being killed by my insistence on relating back the previous night’s edition of Celebrity Masterchef – all the lights went out. In fact, the power went out throughout the entire building. Richard and I were lit only by the faint glow of this laptop, and we encouraged the audience to take flash photographs with their phones to illuminate us further. It was very exciting, actually, although the reasons for being plunged into darkness are a little dark and currently impenetrable. Surely the danger and uncertainty and opportunity for accidental groping will make Podcast 123 one of the most memorable ever for the 80 or so who experienced it. Unfortunately, nobody else will ever hear it, as my laptop went wrong after 2 minutes 46 seconds, but worse than that, it looked for all the world like it was still working for the rest of the show. When we got back to the flat – after a quick birthday day with birthday boy Michael Legge and his now-constant theatrical entourage in the Underbelly – I saved the podcast and exported it, but only the first 2.46 had come out. Clearly, this is my fault, as it is my computer, although the only reason we even used my old warhorse was because having both of our laptops on the tin table onstage meant that Richard was quieter than me on the first one. (This wasn’t such a problem, actually, as I hardly said anything, leaving the heavy lifting of insulting and harassing the audience and talking about following through to him.)

Richard continues to live the fantasy that he thinks I am a dick, and the fact that it was my laptop that went wrong and swallowed what might have been an interesting gig sadly serves to reinforce that constant hail of abuse. Because I hopefully said that my laptop would be alright, and it wasn’t, he seems to think I am conspiring to ruin the double act so that I can just continue my arrogant rise to solo stardom. I now get up early so that I can wash everything in the kitchen up and put it all away before he even rises from his self-indulgent slumber. I have been up early enough to put the rubbish out twice, which means we don’t have to risk having the bag torn open by mutant land seagulls by putting it outside the night before. I really tried to fix the fridge door, and Justin Moorhouse, handyman, is my witness, even though it broke again due to reasons beyond my control. Today, I took all the newspapers and recycled them by hand on the Royal Mile. I am trying to be a good double act partner and a good flatmate, but Richard has created a Frankingstein-style monster of disdain and disapproval of me now and cannot back down.

So, two disasters in one day, and one the day before. Surely that’s all the bad juju for this Edinburgh. Let’s hope the GRV has enough hamsters to bring the power back on today, or else Richard and I will be podcasting in the road like street performers, and I fear Mat Ricardo and the clown union would take a dim view of that, as we don’t have a licence.

In more positive news, Fiona Shepherd’s positive, three-star review of Secret Dancing in the Scotsman is now online here.

I went to see Gary Delaney’s fabulous first Edinburgh show Purist last night at the Pleasance. I saw his preview in London, so have heard many of his inventive and dazzling one-liners before (ironically, he missed out my actual favourite one, but meant to do it), but he’s added some visual gags, one of which is a cracker, and these help to break up what is actually quite a demanding style of comedy, in that there’s a laugh, or potential laugh, or groan, every few seconds. Gary’s onstage persona is his offstage persona, and he allows himself to giggle at his favourite jokes, and at the audacious rudeness of some of them, which allows him to get away with material that even Richard Herring might balk from. I won’t quote any of his gags, as he gets enough of that on the internet already, and anyway, if you follow @garydelaney on Twitter, you’ll find that he gives jokes away for free all the time. Blimey it was hot down in that cellar – and Gary sweats as much as I do – but that is the spirit of the Fringe.

I saw Gary with Michael (who was credited with suggesting one of the visual jokes) and Muki, who went off into the theatrical night straight afterwards, while I had a couple of plastic pints with Manchester’s Sali and Craig, whom I’d last seen at Glastonbury ’09, which means we only ever meet at festivals. At least this one was on cobbles. It was a balmy and star-studded night in the Pleasance Courtyard, and we were subsequently joined on our picnic bench by the northern mafia, Justin Moorhouse (who’d valiantly tried to save our podcast but was defeated) and The One Show‘s Jason Manford, who seems very different with stubble, which I suspect he is wearing while he can, before the big new job starts.

Then I trotted off to see Political Animal at the Stand, Andy Zaltzman’s self-explantorily themed mixed midnight stand-up show, featuring, among others, the talented comic songsmith James Sherwood and Paul Sinha, with whom I’d shared a stage at Comedy Countdown. I’ve never seen Paul before, and he is amazing – every line seems so beautifully honed, and when you think you’ve got the measure of a routine, he twists it one last time, and never lets a predictable finish be.

I accidentally ordered a pint of really heavy draft bitter at the Stand. It was noisy in there and the woman behind the bar misheard me, but I was too polite to rectify the error, which was all mine. I am a bit useless. Things keep going wrong. Why?

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.