If the words Rod, Hull and Jelly mean something to you then read on. If not, first hunt out some clips of Fist of Fun on YouTube. Richard Herring and Stewart Lee’s first TV sketch show back in the mid-90s was anarchic, surreal, comedy genius. So it was tough to stay cool when I found myself opposite Richard Herring in a Turkish cafe a couple of weeks ago, particularly as he was casting his eye over a script I’d written for him. Luckily I had Scope’s celebrity manager sitting next to me; it’s his job to remain calm in the face of legend.
The script was for a two-and-a-half minute slot on Radio 4 to encourage people to donate to Scope. It was tough. I had to squeeze into just 420 words our big, big vision (a world where every disabled person has the same opportunities as everyone else) and illustrate it with a moving story about parents that had just discovered their child is disabled.
And as if that wasn’t enough, in typical Scope fashion, we decided that we’d also throw in some humour, and something else I can’t tell you about. All in just two-and-a-half minutes.
There was every chance that Richard Herring, an accomplished writer, would hate it. And then probably refer to it in stand-up sketches for evermore. He took a long look at the script, and asked to change just one word.
We then headed to Broadcasting House, the stately West End home of Radio 4, to record the appeal. Sally, the producer, guided us into a small studio. The soundproofed room was split in two. One side was a small table mounted with a microphone. Richard Herring sat down there. On the other side of the half-glass partition was a mixing desk behind which Sally positioned herself next to the engineer. He had an enormous cup of tea, which suggested we might be here some time.
In fact, Richard Herring, writer, comedian, columnist, is also a highly accomplished broadcaster (as anyone that listened to his brilliant Objective series will know… Radio 4: please commission some more). We did a practice take, then a real one and then another. And that was all it took. Richard nailed it. Listen out for his skilful handling of the tongue twister: “finally a third physio” and a wonderful Tony Blackburn impression (yes… and again I can’t say any more).
After the recording Richard did a couple of interviews. We’ll be sticking up the footage on the appeal page soon. Then Sally demonstrated her experience of hunting out pockets of light in the dim studio, as we took a couple of photos. Sadly we didn’t grab one of her balanced precariously on a wheelie chair, which I was trying to hold still as she tried an aerial shot of Richard Herring.
The appeal will be broadcast at 7.55am and 9.26pm on Sunday 1 April and at 3.27pm on Thursday 5 April. Find out more at www.scope.org.uk/richardherring