Richard Herring Press


PUPPETRY OF THE Penis has been a festival favourite for a couple of years now, but Richard Herring thinks it's time to give the male genitalia a more serious examination, metaphorically speaking anyway, with his latest solo show, Talking Cock, writes .

Herring first hit upon the idea while performing his last Edinburgh show, Christ On A Bike, at London's Arts Theatre - a venue he shared with Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. 'Friends would come along and say "you should do a male version of that",' he says. 'I was surprised no-one had done it before because it's such an obvious idea. At first I didn't see a reason to do it, but when I thought about it, I realised that there are a lot of stereotypes about men and their genitals which are really false and unfair.'
Such as? 'The idea that all men are obsessed with sex and selfish in bed, which might be true of some 17-year-olds but not of most men I know.'

This mature approach to his subject is at odds with what we might have expected from a performer who used to argue with a human-size orange every week on cult BBC2 series This Morning With Richard Not Judy, which just goes to show that you shouldn't judge a man by his codpiece - at least not the one he wears to start the show.

Herring took his research seriously enough to interview sex therapists and the curator of Iceland's Penis Museum (animal appendages only at present.) His most substantial fact-finding instrument was an Internet survey which notched up 2,500 replies in less than two months. The survey was 68 questions long and asked such questions as: 'Who is the captain of your ship? You or your penis?' And: 'If your penis could speak, what would it say in two words?' With 2,500 respondents encouraged to answer the questionnaire honestly with anonymity guaranteed, it emerged that 'one in four men is seriously messed up about his genitals'.

What did he find most surprising? 'That 34 per cent of men say that they've faked an orgasm,' he says. 'I've had loads of women say to me "men can't fake orgasms", but I think it's indicative of the sexual anxiety that men have now because of women's higher expectations.' However worthy this approach may seem, Herring doesn't lose sight of the fact that, while one in four men in the audience might have a problem about their genitals, the other three quarters don't - so expect some of the survey's odder findings to provide the laughs. For example, the question: 'What places have you put your penis for sexual gratification?' elicits with the wince-inducing answer 'the back of a folding chair' and the bizarre 'in a toilet roll tube filled with jelly'.

Will Talking Cock's blend of serious cultural ruminating and gross-out ribaldry, plus the potential book deal Herring is negotiating, secure it the success of The Vagina Monologues? Herring obviously hopes so. 'It would be good if the show had that kind of life but I always want to do new things, I wouldn't want to stay in it for ten years.' Does that mean you'd take another leaf out of The Vagina Monologues and have the piece read by every F-lister in town? Donna Air and Rhona Cameron have done the honours for Ensler, who has Herring got his eye on? 'It'd be great to get someone like Johnny Vegas because he's really funny but can do pathos really well. I'd obviously want as many brilliant actors and comedians as possible,' he says 'but if I was to get "fill in crap celebrity here", that would be interesting too.'

Source - Metro Online