Richard Herring introduces each of his guests on his RHLSTP podcast (audio / video) by highlighting the most obscure roles they’ve done, which have been excruciatingly excavated from the farthest reaches of pop culture (by which I mean Herring poked around on Internet Movie Database for about a minute). So, for you trivia nerds, here are some of your favorite people in the roles you’ve never heard of.
Steve Coogan is a multi-award winning actor and comedian, the writer behind Philomena, and co-founder of Baby Cow. He’s best known for his impressions (seen in standup and The Trip films) and for playing Alan Partridge on TV, film, radio, and audiobook. He has played a number of roles in American cinema. He is currently starring in Happy-ish on American TV.
The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)
The Indian in the Cupboard is really only obscure if you weren’t born in America during the 1980s (I guess that makes it obscure, then). I remember having to read this book in elementary school, and I think I might have owned the film on VHS. Richard Herring decides it’s “controversially racist” and that a better title would be “The Native American in the Cupboard.” It’s a Frank Oz children’s movie about a boy with a magical cupboard that brings toys to life. The Native American doll is the first and the boy’s favorite, but other characters include a depressed cowboy and Tommy Atkins the soldier, played by Coogan.
Coogan says, “I played a miniature person and I decided after that I wanted to play more miniature people. In the Night at the Museums I also play a miniature soldier, so I’ve done four miniature soldiers in films.” You will, of course, remember Coogan as Octavius alongside Owen Wilson playing…a cowboy…This sounds familiar.
Miranda Hart is the winner of four British Comedy Awards, the creator and star of the hit TV show Miranda, the author of Is It Just Me?, and series regular on Call the Midwife, Hyperdrive, and Not Going Out.
A Very British Cult (2009)
A Very British Cult is a film short starring Richard Herring as David, a cult leader followed apathetically by a small cluster of English couples who spend more time talking about donuts and home décor than they do about the return of Christ, which, according to David’s prophetic dream scrawled out on the kitchen wall in marmalade and jam, is tomorrow. Miranda Hart plays one of the followers. Her husband is played by Gus Brown, who is 5’4”, “so our children would be the perfect height,” says the 6’1” actress. Although the numbers that appeared to David in his sleep do turn out to be a message from God, they are misinterpreted, causing the band of dwindling devotees to wind up at a gas station where they meet an actor in the local Jesus Christ Superstar production. “Genius film writing,” Hart says.
Stewart Lee is the winner of British Comedy Awards, creator of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and The Alternative Comedy Experience, frequent columnist, standup comic, co-writer of Jerry Springer: The Opera, and Richard Herring’s former radio writing partner.
This Morning with Richard Not Judy (1998-1999)
In 1994, Richard Herring did an Edinburgh show called This Morning with Richard Not Judy, a play on the This Morning news program hosted by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan. It was a unique brand of faux naïve scatology and smug self-satisfied intellectualism, which satirized the economics of Edinburgh, which is that comics were less likely to lose money if they gave tickets away on the street than if they put their shows through the normal system. It was, essentially, an Edinburgh show parodying Edinburgh shows.
Having no script or plan, Herring brought Stewart Lee into the production at the last minute to fill out the show a bit more. It was performed in an attic right before or after a young Graham Norton routine.
Hoping to turn the idea into a television program, Herring met with TV presenter Nick Owen. But This Morning with Richard and Nick was not to be. Stewart Lee says, “I was doing standup gigs for thirty pounds while Richard Herring was at the Ritz with Nick Owen trying to get his own thing going with him and Nick Owen, not with me in it, and then he had to come crawling back.” The television show went on to star Lee and Herring in 1998 and lasted two seasons (18 episodes).
Taped in front of a live studio audience, TMWRNJ gave away prizes, such as a car, which was won by a student who happened to have the same model and color of car already. Lee says, “No one in their right mind now would develop a show with such broad parameters and no obvious aims at Edinburgh as we did twenty years ago when losses were absorbed and you could raffle a car off that cost three hundred quid.”
Josie Long & Isy Suttie
Josie Long is a standup comic whose Cara Josephine show took Edinburgh by storm last year. She is the host of podcasts Utter Shambles and Lost Treasures of the Black Heart. Also, creator of hand-drawn mustache magazine DMIMMM (BM).
Isy Suttie is most known for her role as Dobby in Peep Show, but is also a popular musical standup comedian, where she appears on various standup DVDs like 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People and The Alternative Comedy Experience.
Improvisation My Dear Mark Watson (2011)
Improvisation My Dear Mark Watson–“which I think is the worst title of any TV show ever,” says Richard Herring on the grounds that “Improvisation does not even sound like elementary, and Sherlock Holmes never said, ‘Elementary my dear Watson’ anyway”–was a one-off improv pilot hosted by comedian Mark Watson and starring Josie Long, comic Charlie Baker, Derek‘s Colin Hoult, comic Rufus Hound, comic Stephen K. Amos, and Peep Show‘s Isy Suttie, all looking very enthused in the photo above. A mash-up of panel shows and improv, the production failed to get enough laughs for a series. Let’s blame the green screen technology, which is too distracting even on successful improv shows like Whose Line. Josie Long recalls, “It’s one of those things where you do it in the rehearsal and they say, ‘Brilliant. Do that exactly again,’ and I go, ‘That’s not improvisation. That’s the opposite.'”
David Mitchell is one half of the Mitchell and Webb writing duo, the co-star of Peep Show, the author of Back Story, and team captain on Would I Lie to You? He was also the PC in the PC/Mac Apple commercials.
Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb is a Disney cartoon show for kids. (“It’s made by Disney and yet it pays quite poorly,” Mitchell notes.) David Mitchell does the voice of Mitch, sometimes called Big Mitch when his evilness is particularly intimidating, which he played in episodes The Chronicles of Meap (2009) and Meapless in Seattle (2012). “I’m playing a baddie in it,” Mitchell says. “I display rage. It’s the closest I’ve ever got to an Oscar.”
Mitchell recorded his bits from a sound studio in the UK with people “on the high-tech phone in America” coaching him. “It’s a good program, I believe, from the bits I’ve seen,” Mitchell says. “Rather rudely, instead of actually televising me, they just have a drawing.”
Jon Ronson is a well-known investigative journalist, documentary maker, and author of books such as The Men Who Stare at Goats, Them, The Psychopath Test, and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. He is the co-writer of the film Frank.
Man from Delmonte
Jon Ronson was the manager of the 1980s indie band Man from Delmonte in Manchester. Ronson addresses Herring’s audience: “I feel you all would have heard of the Man from Delmonte if they’d landed less inept management. I managed them for three years. I managed them into the ground. I was fired for having an affair with the singer’s girlfriend. It was a rightful firing. I was in the Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band, and it coincided with me being fired from that, for tax reasons.”
Ronson had moved to Manchester after getting the role of keyboardist in Frank Sidebottom’s band while working as the entertainment department secretary under Ricky Gervais at University of London Union (ULU). Though he wasn’t meant to answer the phone, one day he did and had a conversation not unlike the one in Ronson’s Frank film (“Can you play C, F, and G?”) that landed him the role as keyboardist in Frank Sidebottom’s band.
You can listen to Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (pronounced Rehellisteppa) for free on Comedy.co.uk or buy the video versions from Go Faster Stripe for just five pounds. There are some video episodes on YouTube for free, but if you want to help the show continue, don’t forget to buy some episodes, too.