Richard Herring resurrects his Talking Cock show for The Second Coming

'If you’ve put your penis into a toilet roll filled with jelly, you might not be the only one'

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Richard Herring resurrects his Talking Cock show for The Second Coming

Richard Herring returns to the touchy subject of the male winkie for his latest touring show. But he assures Kelly Apter that it’s not just a stream of knob gags

Richard Herring is feeling a bit fragile. Hungover from a Valentine’s Day celebration the night before, he’s also fending off a new cat with a penchant for digging its claws into his thighs. But it’s not pussy I want to talk to Herring about, it’s cock. Ten years after he was first inspired to write an entire show devoted to the male member (it was sharing a theatre with The Vagina Monologues that did it), he’s back on the road with Talking Cock: The Second Coming, and everything that comes out of his mouth seems to have an alternative meaning.

Whether he’s telling me how ‘hard’ it was to choose which research material to use, or questioning the ‘fallacy’ about race and penis size, it’s difficult not to hear a double entendre, regardless of spelling. Primarily because the show itself really is back-to-back willy chat, though not in a testosterone-charged, balls in hand kind of way – that’s not Herring’s style. There’s more a sense of ‘we’re all in it together’ – yes, even the females in the audience.

The key to Herring’s inclusivity is the questionnaire that underpins the show. Started ten years ago, the online surveys – one male, one female – have now generated close to 15,000 replies. ‘I used the questionnaire partly because I thought it would be embarrassing to talk to people face to face about this,’ admits Herring. ‘But it turned out to be the best way of doing it, because people really open up when it’s anonymous.’

And open up they have. Fairly standard enquiries, such as penis length and number of sexual partners, sit alongside more revealing questions like ‘where have you put your penis for fun?’ ‘There were some questions that worked better than others, in terms of generating material,’ says Herring. ‘But I hit gold with that one. There was every place you could think of putting it – and places you would never have thought of inserting anything. So that was quite illuminating, and it’s nice for guys to know that if they’ve put their penis into a toilet roll filled with jelly, they might not be the only one who’s tried it.’

Although the laughs come thick and fast during the show, Herring wasn’t just interested in showing the funny side of male private parts. It was, he says, a ‘balancing act’ to get the right mix of humour and ‘thoughtful, serious bits’. Some questionnaire responses, however, were just too painful to include. ‘A few people opened up in a very vulnerable way and it would have felt wrong to use their stuff. People have had terrible things happen to them, and I don’t think a comedy show is the place to look into that.’

But Herring did find that topics such as penile injury, erectile dysfunction and size inadequacy are better off out in the open. ‘I think men need this show because we don’t really talk about the subject very seriously. So the best way for us to think about it is to do jokes and then a little bit of truth and information sneaks through. And hopefully it also helps women understand men a little bit better.’

Richard Herring: Talking Cock – The Second Coming, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 25 Mar; The Stand, Edinburgh, Tue 26 Mar.

Richard Herring: Talking Cock – The Second Coming

A sort of male Vagina Monologues, Herring bares all about man's best friend. (Nope, not dogs).

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