1st December 2008
It could be argued – and Herring does himself at one point – that he is the less successful one from his partnership with Stewart Lee, Lee having gone on to write the sensational Jerry Springer the Opera. In the 90s, the duo were very much darlings of students and critical press alike, with the television series Fist of Fun and Good Morning with Richard, Not Judy. But since going solo, Herring has certainly been busy. As well as stand up, he is a prolific producer of fringe theatre, and a regular voice on Radio 4.
And though he doesn’t arrive on stage until well into the evening, it’s worth the wait. Hair flowing like a lost disciple, a small paunch suggesting a penchant for comfort food, Richard Herring is still the grown up student with a perfectly timed taste for the absurd. And tonight it works brilliantly. Whether it’s childhood perceptions of sexual mechanics, using basic word play to outsmart a games teacher, or arguing for the disenfranchisement of people who vote BNP (“fight fascism with fascism”), he’s quickly in his element. He’s a comedian who knows how to tell the most basic story with just the right amount of wonder and amazement, silly but never banal. Always more whimsical in tone than the sardonic Stewart Lee, his stand up seems more rounded and complete than his television appearances. Or perhaps that’s what age does for you.
The climax (sic) to this evening’s show is a hypothesis on whether to take seriously the slogan on a jogger’s t-shirt. It’s a quite brilliant skit on what would really happen if someone was to be fellated until they actually died. But though most of Herring’s material wouldn’t pass the BBC censors in the current climate, it’s underpinned by a deeper insight into the madness of what we say we want, and what is actually good for us.
He’s coming back to Oxford next year – go see him. Just don’t buy a stupid t-shirt after the show.