Laughter and personal revelations

Richard Herring is a British comedian who was – as so many of us were – big in the 90s. He’s since been working hard in comedy, mostly hidden from TV audiences. But for around 15 years he’s recorded podcasts from attics, the Edinburgh Fringe, and latterly a fancy London theatre.

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP to all the cool kids) is as much of a self-made success as it is possible for a well-known standup comedian to have. The show is also no stranger to personal revelations. In June 2013, a pretty innocuous question led to Stephen Fry talking about a then recent suicide attempt. It ended up being an early example of podcast content making the news… in the UK, anyway.

But it is a comedy show.

One of the long-running stand-out moments for me is when Stephen Merchant returned after around 10 years. The last time he was on, Herring had behaved pretty naughtily and said some stuff that got under Merchant’s skin, which hurt all the more as he was a big fan of Herring.

But I promise it is a comedy show.

The minute I’m pulling is a funny one, from a recent episode with comedian Fern Brady. She’s just published a book about living with autism – and being diagnosed later in life – and it’s her neurodivergence that takes up a fair amount of the conversation.

To prove this is a comedy show, the bit I’ve chosen, starting at 21:10 in my copy, ends with a story about poo.

[podcast “”]

The National Health Service is one of the jewels in the tarnished British crown (sitting among all the jewels we stole from other countries). But one thing the NHS doesn’t have much provision for is mental health, or diagnosis of neurological difference in later life. I’m pretty certain I’m autistic. I probably have ADHD and I definitely identify as a highly sensitive person (although that’s not a medically recognised thing). I score highly on the preliminary tests they make you take for autism, and I’ve also lived 40 years inside this mind and body so I know that in a lot of cases I’m playing certain situations on hard mode. At some point I hope to pay for a private diagnosis. By the way, have I mentioned you can sponsor this newsletter? lololol.

Anyway… Fern makes a point about people “talking openly” about autism which I think is an important one. She says the issue with that phrase (”talked openly”) is that it suggests neurodivergence should be kept a secret. What I think it takes guts to be open about is the ways in which autistic behaviour can come off. As I write to you now, I’m in the dog house with a date because my inability to remember one particular detail clashed with a need for a solid plan, causing me to make alternate arrangements when I was supposed to have kept my evening open. Totally my fault, but poor action taken based on faulty processing.

I bring that up because it’s easier than bringing up some of the flat-out weird stuff I used to do as a kid, and the main point is that autism can come with a lot of shame attached. That’s what makes Fern’s story so cool – not that she “struggles with autism” (yuck), but that she’s cool with revealing some of the stuff she’s done that to her feels normal but to others is… well, maybe a bit nuts. That’s what was charming AF about this interview.

We’re all a bit weird, let’s face it. It’s just that some of us have got receipts. (Mine are in the post.)

Alright, that’ll do it for this week. You take care of yourself. Keep listening, keep being you in all your wonderful weirdness, and I’ll do the same.

PS: 10 points to whoever emails back with why I chose that particular cover image.

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