Richard Herring & 5 more great interview podcasts

In Pod People part 2, we take a look at Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, and cast an eye further afield with our top five interview podcasts

Feature by Brian Cloughley | 14 Sep 2017

Sarcasm might be the lowest form of wit, but catchphrases are the stupidest. Their modern form was popularised by Harry Enfield in the 1990s, as a shameless way of extending a single comic idea across innumerable series of sketch comedy (no, Harry, you really don't want to do it like that). This stuff's pretty much undisputed, so how can the monologue at the start of every Richard Herring interview – specifically the bit where he explains that cool kids call the podcast RHLSTP – continue to be funny? Objectively it's barely even a joke, yet after 150 re-tellings across 150 episodes with little in the way of variation it still lands somewhere between mildly amusing and almost hilarious. What gives?

Herring explained this once. It was something about how jokes repeated well past the point of being funny eventually regain their power. As Morissey put it, "That joke isn't funny anymore; no, hang on a minute... yes, actually, it's funny again. Heil Nigel." This kind of thinking runs right through RHLSTP. The interviews often hit a lull before coming back to life again; emergency questions (absurd and/or lewd questions rolled out to avoid uncomfortable silences) are repeated across episodes, then forgotten about, before being welcomed back like old friends; Herring's Warming Up blog has been updated every day without fail for 15 years. All these things seem to say, 'keep going, it will be funny again soon.'

Like every other comedian interviewing their peers (and there's a shitload of them, as you'll see below), Herring owes something to Marc Maron, whose WTF podcast is the progenitor of this kind of thing. They're worlds apart stylistically, but there's definitely something similar about their careers: stand-ups who started brightly but then languished in semi-obscurity while their peers (such as Louis CK and Stewart Lee) became more successful, before eventually finding a niche and resurrection through podcasting. It's the same, don't you think – in jokes, in podcasts, in careers, in life. Keep going, it will be funny again soon!

The uninitiated should really just pick their favorite comedian from Herring's list of interviewees and start there, but if you're looking for a suggestion, try the Bob Mortimer interview (episode 64). It works partly because Bob and Richard have equally filthy senses of humour. Jokes about terrorism and paedophilia are pretty standard fare on RHLSTP, so it's surprising to discover that Herring and his audience aren't unshockable. Mortimer's comment about Chris Rea and Ulrika Jonsson (53.30) provokes all sorts of gaspy ooohs and nervous laughs. It even shocks Herring into silence for 20-odd seconds, a reaction which is unprecedented and – uncharacteristically – never to be repeated.

It's Good to Talk: Five more interview podcasts

1) The Adam Buxton Podcast: Geeky and good-natured interviews, songs and musings. Always likable, rarely revelatory.

2) The Comedian's Comedian with Stuart Goldsmith: Do you remember that goofy programme Inside the Actors Studio? This is a bit like that, except with British comedians (therefore slightly less earnest and marginally funnier).

3) Distraction Pieces: Some might say that Scroobius Pip's a total charisma vacuum, but he gets some great guests and they always seem to be enjoying themselves.

4) Here's the Thing: Bet you never thought that Alec Baldwin would be a sensitive and perceptive interviewer. But he is!

5) By the Way: Jeff Garlin's podcast was generally self-congratulatory drivel, but his interview with Larry David is, unsurprisingly, the funniest 80 minutes in the history of recorded audio.