Richard Herring

Richard Herring

Date of birth: 12-07-1967

'I really threw myself into it... and I was still terrible'

Richard Herring on Taskmaster's Champion Of Champions

Taskmaster gets another step closer to the inevitable Champion Of Champions Of Champions on Thursday when a second Champion Of Champions will be crowned from previous champions Liza Tarbuck, Kerry Goldiman, Richard Herring, Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble. Here Herring talks about returning to the show…

Why did you want to do Champion of Champions?

It was just so nice to do. There was a little bit of pressure off in terms of doing the tasks because it overwhelms you when you're doing it for the series and you're so nervous about messing up.

To come back and do an extra one-off episode, I just felt a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. That’s the lovely thing about winning the series, is you get to have another go. It feels like a special little reward.

And, you know, it's the nicest job you’ll ever have. It's fun to be set tasks by Alex and do a challenge and then realise, ‘Oh I’m being paid for this – technically it’s an actual job.’

Don’t tell them this but I would do it for free, five days a week.

What was the atmosphere like?

Brilliant. When I did the series we had no audience and we were socially distant so it was a very different thing this time around.

It was a very nice atmosphere and it felt like a celebration of the show.

We’d all won a series already and it was just an extra bit of fun, so it didn’t feel particularly competitive. Everyone got their moment to shine.

Was it really not competitive?

Well, no, but we did all try very hard. I think it's important to do your best and try to win.

If you're not at least slightly competitive with it – well, Jo Brand wasn’t and she was glorious – but if you’re just trying to be funny and not actively try hard then generally it doesn’t work as well.

How did you get on with Greg?

I think he was a bit thrown by the fact I’ve lost some weight and I was dressed slightly less scruffy than usual so he left me alone a bit and I also got some praise from him for the first time ever.

But he was rude to me as well and I do love it when he’s rude. It’s part of the fun I can’t imagine anybody else doing that role. He’s so brilliant.

He’s got to be tough and commanding but then he's also got to be funny and that's a very difficult line to tread.

Even when you’re the victim, he’s got such a good eye and a good use of language and he’s so good at honing in on our weaknesses, you just have to admire it.

Did you do anything differently compared to in your own series?

I did try very hard in my series and I think sometimes that came across as a bit ‘route one’.

So this time I wanted to think a bit more about finding interesting ways to do things, because that’s something I hadn’t really excelled in doing previously.

But you know, you can’t really win or lose, it’s just lovely to take part.

When I won my series I said to Daisy [May Cooper], ‘All this means is that I was better than you at threading some polos onto dried spaghetti while wearing some mittens, it’s not really a skill for life.’

Is she still bitter about the drawing task that you lost together?

She was super-competitive and I love her for it. She has so much more confidence and self-belief than I do, and she was very confident that the animal she’d drawn was definitely a hippo and that I’d know that.

She was quite heavily pregnant and she was absolutely incredible so even I feel a bit sad that she didn’t win the series. She really wanted it.

What’s the feedback been like from fans about your series?

People really get behind who they like and so some people were furious that I beat Daisy and couldn't understand that!

But what I like about the show is that you end up liking everyone even if you don’t know who they are or you’re not sure about them at first.

Everyone on it is an exceptional talent and the nice thing about Champions is that everyone got their moment to shine and everyone was very funny.

People love the show and are very supportive and I think certainly people who were listening to my podcast were trying to get me on it for so long, and they were just so happy that I was on it.

I've had a lot of lovely support, especially from my own friends. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience: even when Greg lays in to me I just find it so funny.

What do you think is the secret to its popularity?

There's so much love in it, and the team behind it are the greatest team I've ever worked with on any TV show in terms of their commitment to the ideas.

When you have to make a little film or something, the work they put into that and what they add and the effort that goes into making your work look the best it can be, are just phenomenal. They understand what works.

It’s reality TV in a way because it's real, and the comedy is obviously improvised, and we have no idea what’s coming up, and I think that's what draws people in.

I watched it as a fan before I was on it and you watch it thinking, ‘It would be great to do that’ and ‘I’d be terrible at that’ or ‘I’d be great at that’, which is part of the fun.

Where do you keep your Greg head?

I had to hide it for a while as there’s a gap between winning and it being broadcast where you have to be secretive and put it in the attic; I was really careful.

But I’ve had it out a few times. I do a stupid ventriloquist show and I think it turned up in that as a prop.

Or occasionally someone wants to see it so I'll get it out and share it on the Zoom call. But yeah, it’s just lying on the floor at the moment, I haven’t got a trophy cabinet.

Mind you, I never won anything for so long and I’ve had a sudden burst of winning House of Games and The Chase, although you don’t get a trophy for that.

Talk me through the rest of the contestants: is it a different thing, going into it with four other winners?

A bit, but it doesn’t really affect you because all you can really think about each task is how you’re going to approach it yourself. The only time you really think of them as competition is during the final task in the studio.

I did think beforehand that maybe it wouldn't work as well because everybody in it has been successful, and I wondered if everyone would be too good at doing the tasks and there wouldn’t be any funny mistakes.

But that was far from the case. There was plenty of variety in there.

Lou’s delightfully loopy and brilliant, Liza is so clever and in control, Ed’s over-keen and a massive fan of the show, and Kerry is no-nonsense and always getting her face in there.

So it was tough competition but that took the pressure off. Everybody was so good that it didn’t really matter what happened.

Does that mean it wasn’t competitive?

Well I’ve been on Ed’s podcast a few times and there’s a kind of jokey rivalry there. We’ve been on Twitter having a little banter about it.

What were the tasks like for Champions?

There were a couple of arty ones and art is my absolute worst nightmare because I’m so bad at it. Greg might as well just say, ‘There’s one point for you’ before I even start.

I really threw myself into it and I was still terrible. I’ve done a lot of improvisation on other people’s shows and on my own show and it’s just about taking a leap of faith.

It’s the same as the way you write comedy, which is to switch off and let your subconscious take over. It might work, or it might not, but that’s the joy of it.

You did the show four weeks after having a testicle removed after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Did you feel okay?

I was fine, really. Luckily there wasn't too much action involved in the tasks and I was just about okay to do it.

I don’t want to say it would have been the worst thing about the operation but if I’d not got to do Taskmaster, which for a while I thought might be the case, it would have been terrible.

I was meant to be doing Taskmaster a week after the operation and obviously that wouldn't have worked out so we pushed the dates back and I did it three weeks after.

Officially it should have been four weeks after the operation and I wasn’t supposed to lift anything but I wasn’t really required to lift anything hugely heavy. As long as I wasn’t going on any bicycles, I was given permission to do it.

I was a little bit unsteady on my feet still but the crew were helpful.

Did you take advantage of Alex and use him as a prop?

I don’t think I realised in the series that it’s fun to dress him up as a prop.

Also I think it's nice to get a little bit of revenge because, as charming and as innocent as he appears, he’s the guy who’s pulling all the strings.

So it did feel quite cathartic to throw paint at him and say, ‘That’s for all the awful things you put me through.’

Greg recently said he could never do a task, even for a charity sketch, because he’d be too good. Do you think that’s true?

That's the thing: he can never do it. I was talking to David Mitchell about that on my podcast. He was saying, ‘People think I'll be amazing and clever so all that can happen is that I can humiliate myself and dissuade them of that.’

I don’t think Greg could do the task because it would undermine his authority to too great an extent, unless it was the last ever episode.

I think he’d be very, very funny and he’s such an unusual shape that I think you’d get a lot of humour out of that. But I don't think he would be good at it.

 • Taskmaster: Champion Of Champions airs on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursday

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Published: 19 Jun 2022

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Richard Herring: Christ On A Bike!

Edinburgh Fringe 2002

Richard Herring: Talking Cock

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Richard Herring: Menage A Un

Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Richard Herring: Oh Fuck, I'm 40

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Richard Herring: RHLSTP

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Richard Herring: RHLSTP

Montreal 2007

Britcom 2007


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