That conversation took place in the Soho Theatre Bar.
This can be a bad place to have chats, because other comics have a tendency to come across and sit down to chat with you in the middle of the blog chat. Thus it was with my Richard Coughlan chat.
Another problem is that now, in this blog, you have to pay more attention when you read it, because it includes Richard (Coughlan) and Rich (Rose).
“We were talking about A Man Called Horse,” I told the two interlopers.
“Eh?” asked Rich (Rose).
“Are you so young you haven’t even heard of A Man Called Horse?” I asked.
“I did a hook-suspension thing,” explained Richard (Coughlan), “where they put the hooks through your back.”
“Ichi The Killer?” asked Rich.
“You see,” Richard told me. “That’s the reference you want for the young people: Ichi The Killer.”
“A man is suspended and tortured in it,” explained Rich.
“How much pain is there?” Ellis asked Richard (Coughlan).
“It’s impossible to describe how it feels,” explained Richard. “It’s so intense. It’s like this combined feeling of intensity with the fact you know you can’t go anywhere because your feet are off the ground. So you just hang there and take it and all your endorphins kick in and the adrenaline. There is no sort of pain you can relate it to.”
“Is it like hitting yourself repeatedly in the face with a blender?” I asked, referring to the Malcolm Hardee Award winning stunt in which Rose punched Ellis repeatedly in the face to pretend he had been beaten-up by an irate audience member and thus get publicity for their Edinburgh Fringe show.
There is footage of the stunt on YouTube.
“It was a milk whisk,” said Rich, correcting me. Then he mentioned to Richard: “I saw your Eat a Queer Foetus For Jesus show at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
“I always put as much effort into the title of my show as writing the show,” said Richard. “The first show I did ever was Honky-Hating Heterophobic Man Whore. The whole show was about prejudice. My new show is similar: it’s Anti-White PC Mangina ACTIVATE! That was something I got called once online. I got called an anti-white PC mangina.”
“Eat a Queer Foetus For Jesus,” said Rich, “was weirdly moving.”
“Well,” said Richard, “The whole point of the end monologue, which is about my girlfriend having an abortion in 2006, is it’s supposed to peak in the middle and get the audience to a point where they hate my guts and I come across as a horrible, nasty shit and then I become so pathetic and worthless by the end of it that they actually feel sympathetic for me when I am shitting myself during a religious experience having been awake for seven days on the trot, off my head on drugs.”
“Am I right,” asked Rich, “that you were on heroin?”
“No,” said Richard, “I was never on heroin. I quit drinking when I was 22 but the only reason I did that was it was the most boring of all the things I was addicted to. There was the crack, the cocaine, the MDMA and the meth…”
“Methadone or methylated spirits?” I asked.
“Methamphetamine,” said Richard. “Speed is what it’s called over here, but this is like a stronger version of it. Everyone knows what it is now, because they’ve watched Breaking Bad.”
“Except me,” I said.
“At one point,” Richard continued, “there was an eighteen month period where I was addicted to all four. But, from what I don’t remember of it, I was still quite high functioning. I was working 50 hours a week. You have to: I had something like a £600-a-week cocaine habit. I have no idea how I managed that, because I was only making £300 a week. You get to the point where you think: What else can I sell? I’ve got the carpet and my kidneys left.”
“But you stopped being addicted?” I asked.
“Yeah. I knocked them on the head when I was about 25/26. (Richard is now 35.) People still think I’m on them because they see me on stage and I’m manic and all over the place and they see how thin I am and think I’m still on stuff but, no, that’s how much I took: it’s still wearing off.”
“It’s quite interesting,” said Rich, “the way quite a lot of comedians have a history of drug abuse.”
“I don’t really care,” said Richard. “I don’t really care what other people are talking about. When I wrote the abortion routine… I started writing it in about 2008 and it was only in about 2012 that I was finally confident enough with it to get it done. Originally, it was a bit longer, because I had written all this other stuff about interaction I had had with pro-life groups and, six months after I had written but not yet performed it, I watched Doug Stanhope’s No Refunds and he does lots of abortion material and he did this joke that was almost identical to what I’d written.
“I was so unsure about my stuff – even though it was true – that I actually wrote to Doug Stanhope saying: Here’s a transcript of a joke I’ve written. It’s almost identical to yours. I’m worried about doing it because I don’t want people to think I’ve nicked it off you. What should I do?
“I thought: He’ll never get back to me, but he got back to me the next day saying: Oh, when I started, everyone thought I was ripping-off Bill Hicks because I did stuff about drugs. He said: If you want to do it, just do it. If anyone accuses you of ripping me off, you can just send them a copy of this e-mail.”
“What is quite interesting,” said Rich, “is that, when Doug Stanhope talks about that kind of thing, he does it very much to make a point whereas, when you do it, I must say, it is moving – Doug Stanhope is rarely moving.”
“Well,” said Richard, “I wanted to write from the experience that This is not really funny. This was not fun. This was horrific and it was a traumatic, horrible experience. But it’s funny”
“I really like Stanhope’s stuff,” said Rich, “but when Stanhope talks about that kind of thing, there’s never a sense of regret. What made yours interesting was there was a sense of regret.”
“But I think, though,” said Richard, “that he takes it to such an extreme. He does that great joke where he goes: We only had an abortion. It wasn’t a frivolous reason. It wasn’t cos we weren’t financially secure. It was just cos we wanted to know what it felt like to kill a baby. I don’t think Doug Stanhope is the sort of act who can risk coming across as emotionally fragile. Whereas that’s me.”
“Sometimes though,” I suggested, “it’s best not to annoy the audience too much.”
“There was one guy,” said Richard. “who had never even been to one of my shows. He was an English Defence League member who sent me a message: When you’re in Scotland doing a gig, I’m going to come and fucking find you and kill you, So I sent him my gig list saying: This is where I’m going to be. Then someone sent me a PM saying You might want to be careful – with a link to an article in The Scotsman and this guy had been sent to prison for stabbing his girlfriend.
“So I told him: If you come. let me know in advance, because I can bring a camera so I can get filmed being killed on camera.”
“You could get £250 from You’ve Been Framed!” I said. “Well, your heirs would.”
“At the risk,” said Richard, “of sounding like a bitter and twisted old bastard about not being famous, if I can get someone to kill me, then people will think: Oh, he must have been brilliant. Let’s look at all his old shit on the internet. And suddenly people will find it much more poignant and they will think it was really important and I can become famous without having to do any more work. And the other thing is people will say: Oh, he would have been massive if only he’d lived. He had so much potential.
“But, of course, I wouldn’t have. I would – I will – fuck it up like I always do.”
On YouTube, Richard talks some more about getting hate mail.