Monday, 18 February 2008

Herring On the Rise

Somewhere along the line Richard Herring stopped being a 90’s comedian who was once on the telly, and became the kind of comic’s-comic whose name is mentioned as a benchmark of all that is witty, modern and great about the live comedy circuit.

Evidence? This weeks Guardian Guide mentioned him twice in articles about other comedians. First in a preview for Colin and Fergus show at the Hen and Chickens, Herring’s name is dropped in when it’s revealed the duo once shared a flat with him in Edinburgh, then again in a preview for Toby Hadoke's upcoming tour, this time a complimtary quote from the man himself. That was it. Using the name Richard Herring to prove the comedy pedigree of a lesser-know act.

That definitely says something.

When Lee and Herring drifted away from each other the smart money was on the former to carry on the ascent. He was the straight man and already had a solid reputation as a stand up in his own right, Herring was less known and had an on-screen persona based on being very silly and excitable, he didn’t quite fit the mood. And initially this has proved true: Stewart Lee did some great stand up, Jerry Springer The Opera, more great stand up and got voted 41st best Stand Up of all time (also the name of his current show). At some point in the last couple of years he became one of those under-ground success stories whose name is whispered in hushed tones of comedy genius. Should this continue he’ll probably end up as the British Bill Hicks, and he deserves it.

Richard’s progress has been patchier: a series of well received one-man shows, culminating with ‘Talking Cock’, which hit a nerve (or at least a vein) with the comedy public. There was even a book. Then there was writing work with Al Murray’s ‘Time Gentlemen Please’, Radio 2’s historical sketch show ‘That Was Then This Is Now’ and more recently writing and acting in the sitcom ‘You Can Choose Your Friends’ for ITV. On top of that there’s been panel-shows a plenty on Radio 4, and a return to straight stand-up, culminating with his latest show ‘Oh Fuck! I’m 40’, which pretty much sold out every night in Edinburgh –something Herring has done quite a lot in recent year. As he himself will readily admit, Stewart Lee was selling out a much bigger venue, but the point still stands.

Still until now he’s not really had the respect, his has not been a name that has been dropped to the same extent as Simon Munnery, Rob Newman or, of course, Stewart Lee (incidentally all Avalon alumni, though only Munnery and Herring are still represented), but something has shifted. The Guardian episode is a case in point: Herring has become a reference point, a symbol. He is becoming underground comedy royalty, and it’s justly deserved. Hopefully this will mean more selling out at Edinburgh this year and more Herring on telly. Of course we could be wrong, but I think if Channel 4 where to repeat their 100 Best Stand Up list in a year or so, Herring will feature. Maybe even at number 40.

It’s well deserved. Richard Herring is in a league that really only includes himself and his former partner (and possible Simon Munnery), comics who can effortlessly deconstruct what makes us laugh whilst –crucially- continuing to make us laugh. He can combine the very silly with very incisive. He makes dick jokes that tell us something about why dick jokes are funny, and yet still remain good dick jokes. You can laugh at him, with him and at yourself all at once.

Anyway, his current tour, the excellent Oh Fuck! I’m 40, is well underway and we’d recommend you go:

20th Feb St David's Hall, Cardiff
22nd Feb South Street Arts Centre, Reading - SOLD OUT
23rd Feb Gala Theatre, Durham
24th Feb Tobacco Factory, Bristol
28th Feb Arts Theatre, London
29th Feb Arts Theatre, London
2nd March The Comedy Cavern, Bath
3rd March Farnham Maltings Arts Centre, Surrey
4th March Little Civic, Wolverhampton
7th March Jersey Arts Centre
8th March Tripod Dublin
9th March The Tron, Glasgow
11th March Just The Tonic, Nottingham,
12th March Hilarity Bites, Darlington
13th March West End Centre, Hampshire
15th March The Y Theatre, Leicester
16th March Assembly Rooms, Derby
17th March Mac-The Theatre, Birmingham
19th March The Junction, Cambridge
20th March Komedia, Brighton
21st March Cardiff DVD record
24th April Black Box, Belfast
3rd May Chipping Norton Theatre
10th May York

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