Richard Herrings "Talking Cock" has been described as mans answer to The Vagina Monologues and after years of Hamburger and Eiffel Tower shaped hijinks with Puppetry Of The Penis it's the least we deserve. Looking at cocks in a humorous, yet serious way, Herring has spent the past 2 years reading cock, thinking cock and writing cock and as a result has produced a book which blows away many of the myths than make men feel insecure about their manhood. Designer Magazine caught up with Richard Herring to discuss the great big cock project.
Q: Last time we spoke it was around the time of the
"Christ On A Bicycle" shows. How do you move from Jesus to cock in 2 years?
A: They're both 5 letters ending in S - Jesus and Penis - so I'll have to think of something that rhymes similarly for my next show. But they were connected cos I did the jesus show in the Art Theatre and I was sharing the theatre with the Vagina Monologues so that's where the idea came from. Where it started from was people seeing the Vagina Monologues and everyone saying why don't you do a male version of this and me going cos it would be shit. And then I stopped and thought about why no one had done it really...cos it's such an obvious idea. I started thinking about why it hadn't been done and how you could do it in a surprising and interesting way and whether men needed to serious talk about this subject.
Q: You really wanted to do something that was the flipside
of Puppetry Of The Penis as well didn't you?
A: It was interesting that women celebrating their vaginas and men twisting their genitals into the shape of hamburgers. I thought there was a disparity there so I wanted to try and balance it up and do a show that celebrated men while still pointing out where they're ridiculous. The Vagina Monologues is a bit smug and full of itself, it celebrates women without really taking the piss, whereas at least I take the piss out of men as well as celebrating the good things we do and saying were not as bad as people necessarily make out.
Q: So how long did you sit there thinking about cocks
until you decided to work on the performance and the book?
A: I can't quite remember how long it took because I really was resistant to doing it. I think just really those 3 weeks that I was doing the London run of "Christ On A Bike" I think I came round to it. I've been thinking about cocks, which isn't something I'd exclusively done before, for 17 or 18 months. I'll be glad when I can get to leave this subject behind to be honest. It's not like I thought i'd write about what I know and what I love and what I'm interested in - Men's big cocks!!!
10 years ago I wouldn't have done this at all because
everyone does cock jokes and it's such an obvious subject. In a way to
take an obvious subject and try and be original about it is even harder
in a way. And I think as I've got older i've thought there's nothing really
wrong with people wanting to come and see your stuff.
Q: A lot of what goes into Talking Cock as a performance
and book came from the internet survey you ran. Did you test the questions
out on your mates in advance to gauge a response?
A: No. To be honest I just sat down and wrote everything I could think of in an afternoon, send them off and the guy put them up on the website. About 3 days later I looked through things about what questions I should have asked, what stuff I hadn't covered and wrote about 10 more questions about that. I think i've pretty much got everything...in hindsight there might be about 2 more questions I should have asked - I wish i'd have asked have you ever tried to have anal sex with yourself?
About 8000 people, men and women, have done it all over
the world so it's on edges of being a proper scientific survey except that
people have to choose to do it which probably squews it a bit.
Q: Were you surprised at some of the answers you received
as a result?
A: Yes, a lot of them. I think one of the first questions I looked at was where have you put your penis for fun. Again I can't really quite remember writing the questions and I don't know what I expected for that, I wasn't expecting what I've got. As I think I say in the book, it's not really something i've done. Pretty much anywhere you can put your penis and quite a few places you can't put a penis is where men have put their penis for fun. Some surprising and funny and quite sad things in there as well. But it also shows that people are the same and things you are ashamed of that everyone does them. It's quite heart-warming in a way and quite encouraging because I think a lot of men get to the point where they think they're perverted and mental and bottle it all up, whereas I think if we could be honest about this subject you'd see that were not all the same, but we've all got similar stupid things we've done.
Q: Were there any in there you thought, right I'll
try that then?
A: No (laughs) and I hope that isn't what it turns into. I would have thought they're mainly adolescent things where you're just experimenting. I'm quite happy with a sexual partner or my own hand to be honest. I don't think I need a toilet roll full of jelly to get me off...I just can't imagine how you could do that without laughing.
Q: Did your own personal answers correlate with most
A: There were things I was worried about, things I'd done in the past and the way I felt about things that had happened in bed. Stuff like not being able to get an erection sometimes you think that something must be wrong with you as a bloke and then you read the answers to everyone else you realize it's usually cos your pissed. But even if it's isn't once you understand what it's about you realize it's a only a temporary psychological thing and it doesn't reflect on you badly. The stereotype is a man has to be able to have a constant erection whenever he wants and the truth is somewhat different from that, especially as men get older, and although I didn't have massive worries about that now if I don't get an erection it doesn't bother me in the same way it would do 18 months ago.
Q: As I said earlier it took 2 years to move from Jesus
to Cock. Where do you envisage your journey will take you next?
A: I might try and write a film which isn't about cocks. I might do a one man show. We'll just have to see. I've always worked really really hard and I've just got to the point where I've done Ok over the last 2 or 3 years and thought I might enjoy the financial security i've given myself over the past 3 years work. I'm pretty sure I will go to Edinburgh next year and I've got the idea of doing a piece on the nature of being alone, but not in a negative way.
"Talking Cock" is out now on Ebury
Selected UK and International performances are being held
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