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At last! Herring finds an answer to one of his many questions; His cult '90s sketch show Fist Of Fun was left to languish in the BBC archives for 15 years, but Richard Herring's not bitter. Here the stand-up talks to Nathan Bevan about love, laughter and why he's glad at missing out on Little Britain-style mega-success.

RICHARD Herring's latest show might be all about the trials and tribulations of being in love, but the busy 44-year-old stand-up thinks he's found the perfect way to make relationships work - start one with another comedian.

"We're just coming up to four years together this month, so she does figure in the routine quite a bit," smiles the comic, admitting he and fellow performer Caitie Wilkins' love affair is his longest ever.

"But I think she comes out of it quite well though, despite being initially concerned that some of the things in my act could be taken the wrong way.

"Not that she hasn't got her weird qualities though, " he laughs. "Besides, she's done plenty of material on me in the past - we usually try to divvy up the various things that happen in our life together to both use on stage."

Although, while that would probably send most normal people's self-consciousness sky-rocketing, Herring says their arrangement works rather well.

"Neither of us are particularly competitive, so it's not like we're forever trying to outdo each other," he says.

"And because both of us work the same irregular hours we both understand when the other goes off on tour for weeks on end.

"It probably wouldn't work if I was going out with someone with a regular job who had to get up at six in the morning all the time.

"Caitie was still temping when we first met and I used to get woken up a lot, which was a nightmare," he sighs with mock indignation.

Domestic satisfaction aside however, Herring's latest show What Is Love Anyway? isn't shy of asking some pretty probing questions about that most enigmatic of emotions - including why, if love is some magical force which guides us unerringly to our soulmate, does it usually wait until we're drunk out of our minds in a nightclub to do so? "The whole thing is all about how I've spent my entire life thinking and questioning too much, which is great if you want to be a comedian," he laughs. "But not so much if you want to have a successful personal life."

That said, the show can be seen as a departure from Herring's other recent "controversial" work like Hitler Moustache (in which he tried to reclaim the Chaplin-esque toothbrush 'tache from its fascistic connotations) and Christ On A Bike, where he jokingly drew parallels between his own life and that of God's Son - which led one Aberdare venue cancelling a gig last Easter.

"It's funny, because a lot of the stuff me and Stew (Herring's former comedy partner Stewart Lee) used to talk about on TV was way more offensive than me suggesting I was in some way a relation of Jesus," he says.

"But because those weren't on some big list of danger words certain groups like to refer to, we got away with it."

Well, sort of, as the TV show in question - Lee & Herring's Fist Of Fun - never got repeat showings and was left to gather dust in the BBC's archives for the next 15 years.

Until, that is, Cardiff-based comedy company Go Faster Stripe bought the rights and released the first series - replete with extras, including bootleg video of a gig the pair did in Treforest - on DVD last year, with series two set to follow soon.

"Some of that stuff I'd not seen since we filmed it," admits Herring, who was reunited with Lee to provide a running commentary on one of the discs. "And while some of it maybe wasn't as good as we'd remembered it, I thought it stood up pretty well - I could definitely see how we've both progressed since, put it that way."

Is he annoyed at the way the programme was treated though? "Not really, and in a way I'm glad Fist of Fun didn't take off and become as big as, say, Little Britain would," he adds. "We'd have never managed to keep as much control over what we do had things gone that way. Besides, no one could have done as amazing a job as the chaps at Go Faster Stripe in putting the DVD package together. So, in a way, I'm glad the BBC never really understood us."

And the one-time young turk says he finds it hard to believe he's now considered an elder statesman of stand-up by many of the current acts.

"Yeah, it's amazing we're all still going," he laughs. "I mean, look at Peter Baynham. [The Cardiff writing talent behind some of Alan Partridge and Borat's funniest moments, who played an unsanitary Welsh bed-sit dweller and dispenser of dubious lifestyle tips on the show]. Who'd have thought he'd end up being nominated for a script-writing Oscar one day!" But Lee & Herring fans hoping for a Fist Of Fun reunion look set to be disappointed.

"I know a lot of people would like to see it because, at the odd gig or two me and Stew have done together since, we got the kind of reaction normally reserved for visiting rock stars," says Herring.

"But we're both so busy with our solo stuff that it's very unlikely. Maybe, if we both survive long enough, we'll do it as a George Burns-style old man double act.

"After all, with all these retro comics getting comeback shows on TV, people must be watching at home going, 'Surely Lee & Herring must be better than that'?" he laughs. * Richard Herring plays The Savoy Theatre, Monmouth, on Thursday. For information call 01600 713 701


* Comedian Richard Herring
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 16, 2012
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