Edinburgh intros #30: London is Funny visited The Herbert’s house in search of an interview, but went home empty-handed
I meet The Herbert in his tatty house somewhere in zone 4, London. Its a good 20-minute walk from the station and his street is a mix of Subarus, pebble dash and dog poo. The Herbert is waiting at the front window, grinning, wearing boxing gloves. It takes him 5 minutes to open the front door. I am beckoned in to the kitchen, where two budgies are flying around; I’m given a massive cup of tea and The Herbert ushers me into the living room where he insists we both use the beige reclining sofa. I start the interview.
So, The Herbert. Tell us a bit about your show.
The Herbert then does his entire show, for just me, in the living room. It’s condensed but still runs to 20 minutes. It’s mental. At the end his wife comes in carrying a baby. She is furious. She hands him the baby and slams the door on her way out.
What’s your favourite bit?
The baby is now crying. The Herbert checks the nappy. That’s the problem, right there.
I ask again, what’s your favourite bit?
The Herbert tickles the baby, it laughs. The Herbert points at the smiling face.
That’s your favourite bit?
The Herbert nods, then beckons me out of the living room and into another room that is obviously where he works. There is stuff everywhere. Each wall has numerous shelves with loads of odd stuff on it. Wool, speakers, boxes of wires, chopped up dolls, spray paint and loads of plastic toys. There is a huge rack of weird clothes, a makeshift music studio that looks like it’s made up from bits and pieces people have left on the street. There is an odd smell in the room that I can’t quite place. And every bit of spare wall has a mirror on it, and in each on is a reflection of The Herbert’s face looking at me, grinning.
In here? This is your favourite bit?
He half nods, I’m not quite right, Then a two-year-old boy, Herbert’s son, walks in holding a slinky. He says “Show Daddy?”. Herbert is instantly transfixed, he nods, then his son pretends to do a poo using the slinky, accompanied by a massive raspberry. Herbert laughs and gives his son a thumbs up. Herbert points at his son. That’s the best bit of what he does, playing with his son. He gives his son a kiss and a penny. He bows and leaves the room.
If your show were a dog what would it be?
He replies “Battersea Dogs Home”.
Whats your walk on music?
The Herbert then struts up and down the living room pouting to an imaginary beat. He stops and nods at me as if to say “next question”, then realises I have absolutely no idea what he means. So he sits me down in the middle of the room and starts up some music. Its very loud and sounds like a mixture of ragga and something from the Bugsy Malone, except it has no words, just the sound of someone who hasn’t got the words right yet. It’s very, very loud. A car alarm goes off outside.
His wife becomes audible from the next room, she is on the phone shouting and crying at her mother. His son walks in dressed in a monkey outfit and fez singing happy birthday, holding a cake made of wood.
Is it your birthday I ask?
The Herbert laughs massively and shakes his head. The boy then asks: “Train Daddy?” The pair of them pretend to be trains and choo choo out of the room. A budgie flies into the room, lands on the TV remote and defecates. Ten minutes later The Herbert comes back in with cardboard tubes on his legs and arms, pretending to be a robot. I tell the Herbert I have to go, he looks gutted but smiles, he understands. Then he walks me to the station still dressed as a robot. Just before the doors of the train close he says: “Get off at London bridge, it’s got better connections than Cannon Street.”