Men of Australia, my next guest knows more about what's going on in your underpants than you do. And women, please try not to make this look so funny. He's researched on the Internet men and their penises worldwide and used that information to create a one-man show currently featuring at the Melbourne Comedy Festival called 'Talking Cock'. Please welcome Richard Herring.
Andrew Denton: Let's get the difficult stuff out of the way first. There are a million euphemisms for 'penis'.
Richard Herring: Yes.
Andrew Denton: What are some of your favourites?
Richard Herring: Well, new ones come in every day. Um, I quite like Spurt Reynolds. That's quite good. Um, Rumple Foreskin was a good one I saw today. Um, Jack the Dripper...
Andrew Denton: Mmm.
Richard Herring: Quite a rude one I've made up myself.
Andrew Denton: Yes?
Richard Herring: Fuckingham Phallus.
Andrew Denton: You'll be writing for the London 'Sun' with that. Why do penises deserve celebrating?
Richard Herring: Well, I think they do because they're...they've been such a figure... They're either seen as a figure of fun or as a dangerous weapon. We don't ever say, "This thing is good as well." It brings lots of pleasure to lots of people - mainly the owner. But also occasionally other people as well. It has been known.
Andrew Denton: Tell me about the Internet questionnaire. That's basically how you did your research?
Richard Herring: Yeah. There's about 70 questions for men and about 30 for women. I just wrote down everything I could think of, in a, sort of, afternoon. I can't remember why I asked some of the questions. I asked men if they'd ever tried to suck their own cock, for example, which...I don't know why I asked that question. But 70% of men admit to having had a...
Andrew Denton: No! No!
Richard Herring: I mean, it has really been amazing. A lot of it's funny and very heart-warming. Some of it's quite sad. A lot of men are very...have a lot of secret vulnerability about this, which I think the show sort of demonstrates. People never admit this - it's a subject we all laugh about. It is quite interesting to see that there are kind of about 25% of men suffering in silence over issues of size or impotence or erectile dysfunction - all these kind of things.
Andrew Denton: Well, let's get to size. One of the things you're saying in your questionnaire is "Why are there no two-inch pencil-thin dildos?"
Richard Herring: Yeah.
Andrew Denton: Does...for women, does size count?
Richard Herring: Um, well, about two-thirds of women and two-thirds of gay men do sort of say size is important in lovemaking. Actually, about a quarter of women say they'd finish with someone over the size of their penis on the survey, which is quite a staggering figure. But then, what you don't realise is half... Often, having a big penis is a bad thing for women, because obviously it can be painful and it can be impossible to make love, which isn't something we ever look at seriously. So it is quite important. But one woman said, "If it's too small, "it's like whisking a toothpick around in a bucket."
And my response to that is, "Well, you're the one who called it a bucket, darling, not me. I'm telling you, no-one's got a cock as big as a bucket, I'm afraid. You'll be searching a long time for that." So there is that double thing which we don't often look into. But the actual fact is the average penis is about six inches long. And the average vagina is also about six inches long. They're a match. And, obviously, they all vary in size. And I think the 'Kamasutra' sort of compares men and women to three different types of animals of different size. You obviously want to match up with the one that's of similar size. I think all men have this idea that they're small. Actually lots of guys surveyed who think they're smaller are average or above-average in size and they're... Actually, many are worrying - "I'll never be able to date women - my penis is too small." Most guys are worrying about nothing at all. You know, I don't think size is important. It's impossible to tell. Though I have found a way to tell. The best way for girls in the audience to determine the length of a man's penis - get him to show it to you. And then measure it with a ruler. And that works.
Andrew Denton: And we are...?
Richard Herring: That works well. And then you know.
Andrew Denton: The editor of 'Screw Magazine', Al Goldstein, once observed that men would fuck mud.
Richard Herring: Yes.
Andrew Denton: One of the questions you asked is "Where have you put your penis?" Did this startle you?
Richard Herring: Yeah. I wish I hadn't asked that question, with the benefit of hindsight. I mean, it's everywhere you could possibly put a penis, and quite a lot of places you couldn't possibly put a penis, men have put their penis. I mean, in all kinds of bottles, uh, glasses of wine - I believe that's known as coq au vin...
Meat products. The best, the topper of this is jelly spooned into a toilet roll. Um... Now, what delights me about it is...in that it's very specifically spooned in. You can't... You can't pour it in before it sets. That wouldn't be any good, would it? Clearly, that wouldn't work. You can't scoop it with your fingers. You wouldn't want to get jelly all over your hands - oh, no! You have to spoon it in with a spoon, you know? Yeah, it's not very nice. So there's...
Andrew Denton: Well, I'm just thinking, we have a very famous jingle here - (Sings) I like Aeroplane Jelly Aeroplane... I'll never think of it the same way.
Another question, which I thought was rather sad. You asked some men do they hate their penis.
Richard Herring: Yeah.
Andrew Denton: And some men do. Why is that?
Richard Herring: Well, a lot of it is because we men are... I think our culture makes men define themselves through the appearance of their penis. And I think there's an idea of a norm. I think this has shown me, more than anything... And I didn't know very much about penises before I started. This wasn't me writing what I know.
Andrew Denton: Yeah.
Richard Herring: And, uh... But they vary so much. And yet we've got this idea of them all being the same, and so guys who think they aren't big enough or that they're an unusual shape or size can get very big complexes about it, to the extent, you know, where they... There's some very sad ones from guys you'd consider perverts, I suppose - quite harmless perverts - but who have sort of, you know, become so obsessed with it they can't ever see themselves with a woman, so they make their own amusement in sort of what would be seen as being perverted ways.
Andrew Denton: They're so obsessed with their own genitalia?
Richard Herring: Yeah. 'Cause I asked, "What would your penis wear, "if your penis could get dressed?" The worst guy who hates himself the most said it would get dressed like a tramp in shabby clothes. It gives you an idea, that question, as well as being funny - an idea of how men identify themselves through their penis. Obviously, that can be size, or to do with race, and religion, obviously, as well, with circumcision.
Andrew Denton: I meant to ask - just a hunch - but has religion had anything at all to do with a warped view of...?
Richard Herring: I think it entirely... Well, again, it is fascinating. I'm writing a book about this subject also. Because there's so much to say. There's more in the book than... The show is about the cultural history, where, embarrassingly, men didn't realise they had anything to do with reproduction till about 14,000 years ago. Up to that point, it was just women and the vagina and the Venus of Willendorf who was...
Andrew Denton: So it just spontaneously...?
Richard Herring: Yeah. But then it sort of turned around. When men realised, we started celebrating. There were gods that created the world by masturbating. There's a Sumerian god called Enki who created life and the rivers of Iraq by masturbating onto the earth.
Andrew Denton: Shouldn't his name have been Wanky?
Richard Herring: It should have been. They didn't think of that - no sense of humour. But then, it's turned around to where men began to believe that they were totally responsible for babies, which is insane. I can't see how... They thought they planted the seed in women and so that's how we got the paternalistic gods of sort of Judaism and Christianity, because they became a paternalistic society. And yeah - that's when it started going mad - when we started feeling ashamed about sex, I think, through religion, whereas the early religions sort of celebrated sex and sexuality and women and men. And then it became...we got religions that suddenly celebrated men and not women. And again, my show is about celebrating men and women together. Genitals are something to be shared with whatever you want to share them with - toilet roll full of jelly, that's fine, as long as you've got the consent of the toilet roll.
Andrew Denton: Has this affected your sex life at all? Does your partner ask you not to bring your work home?
Richard Herring: Well, my girlfriend was a journalist who interviewed me about this show. Possibly took her research a bit too far into the subject. Um, but it did, to begin with. I was, like... Because it's... You know, you spend all day thinking about cocks, reading about cocks, talking to men about their cocks. I wished I'd done a show about really big tits instead. No, but, um... (Laughs) And it did, for a while. There's a bit in the show where I'm talking about erectile dysfunction. There's all anonymous stuff. Then one of the testimonies is, "I'm a stand-up comedian currently performing in a show entirely about penises. There's a questionnaire also. It's taking over my life. When we're about to have sex, I'm thinking about the mechanics of it and can't get it up." Which, uh... There was some truth in that, because...
Andrew Denton: Really?
Richard Herring: If you think about it too much. The thing with an erection, it's a psychosomatic response we have no control over, actually. It's dependent upon all sorts of conditions coming together. So the minute you start thinking about it too much... Everything I was doing with my penis, all the functions - not the jelly, the other things - but I was sort of thinking about it. If you think about it, it starts to affect you in a weird way. But I think, ultimately, it... Just knowing that anything I thought that was weird about myself or anything that I thought was...you know, I had a problem with, you realise there isn't a problem with it. In the end, it's probably made me a lot happier as a man. And to think about the stereotypes of men we all accept. And you think about them for a second, and you realise they're not true of any man you know and yet we all happily, even men, go along with the stereotypes.
Andrew Denton: The big question - have you made your partner happy?
Richard Herring: I hope so.
Andrew Denton: Yeah.
Andrew Denton: Well, Richard, on at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It must give you great encouragement to know you're performing in a former penal colony.
And on that sparkling note - Richard Herring, thanks very much.
Richard Herring: Thank you very much.