Over the past few years Richard has been one of the most consistently popular guest suggestions, from the public, from other QI panellists (particularly Alan) and from members of the QI team and crew. Much of this is due to his brilliantly droll hosting of radio 4’s Saturday Live. There are few broadcasters who manage to be quite so funny, wise and generous simultaneously. All these qualities were present for his QI debut in the ‘Jobs’ episode of the J series, where he charmed Stephen with his inside knowledge of priestly vestments while also telling stories of '80s rock and roll (breakfasting with Carol Decker from T’Pau).
Richard arrived in London from Northamptonshire in 1980, keen to pursue a career as an actor, but became session musician in the theatre instead. In 1983 he joined synth-pop band Bronski Beat as a sax player and left the following year to form a two-piece band, The Communards, with lead singer Jimmy Somerville. The duo had three top ten records in three years, including a version of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, the biggest selling single of 1996. When the band split up in 1988, Richard found himself ‘having lots of money and no work to do’. Drawn to religion he studied theology at King’s College London and was awarded an MA for his work on St Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians which he described as being ‘not an epistle, not by St Paul and nothing to do with Ephesus’. (Very QI)
After a brief spell as a Catholic, he was ordained an Anglican in 2005 and now serves as parish priest of St Mary the Virgin in Finedon, Northamptonshire. He is openly gay (but celibate) and eschews ‘religious’ broadcasting for the secular pleasures of Saturday Live, Have I Got News for You and Newsnight Review. On All Saint’s Day 2012, he published his first book, Lives of the Improbable Saints, an account of 200 lesser-known saints which manages to be witty, learned and rather shocking.
Richard is the inspiration for (and consultant to) Tom Hollander’s Rev Adam Smallbone in the BBC sitcom Rev.