As half of Lee and Herring, Richard Keith Herring was a constant presence in the comedy exposure of my teenage years. I have many fond memories of This Morning With Richard Not Judy (TMWRNJ) and for that, both he and Lee will be forever adored by me.
Since leaving my teenaged years behind me, I have regularly sought out their shows and as seasoned comedians, they never disappoint. Richard’s tireless commitment to providing internet-based content on a ‘pay what you can afford’ basis is something to be greatly admired, and inkeeping with the spirit of the free content gesture, it’s a pleasure to attend paid gigs and support his endeavours in various ways.
This week I was fortunate to see him perform twice in a matter of days. As part of his “not-going-to-Edinburgh-this-year year off”, he has set up a weekend residency at the Leicester Square Theatre. Each Friday and Saturday night he has performed a different one of his eleven previous solo stand up shows, with the final night premiering his twelfth show Happy Now?. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of work and material to remember, whilst attempting to write a full solo show. You’ve got to admire the ambitions of Herring, he does not choose the easy route ever!
Firstly, I caught his warm up show over at the Proud Archivist in Haggerston. This was a two-part show, a preview of The Headmaster’s Son followed by new material being tested for the twelfth show. As with any new material / preview nights, it wasn’t without its bumps, the occasional peek at notes etc, but Richard is an accomplished comedian, he rode them out with no problem – riffing with the audience, joking about the fact that he had forgotten – probably coming up with a new take on some of the routines in the process. I like a variety of comedians, I don’t really subscribe to the idea that one style is necessarily better than another – there are some very good storytellers, some great one-line comics, supremely talented musical comedians and other who absolutely nail observational stuff. To me, there are a handful of comedians you just trust to deliver a good night, regardless of what show they are doing. Herring fits this bill – whether he’s on a panel show, recording his chatshow podcast, doing a full themed show, or just doing a twenty minute stand up spot somewhere – he is worth a visit.
He’s not an offensive comic, although I understand some people took offense at some of his show themes. You just can’t please everyone, I guess, but when I saw his second show that week, Hitler Moustache his wit and intelligence shone through. Some people unnerved by the presence of the ‘tache perhaps failed to listen to the two hours of finely-woven anti-racist and pro-humanity logic permeating his set. The controversy that the show generated was useful to see and shows how much we do need to be challenged as a society. We do need to get better at seeing through symbols and actually gauging intent. Herring’s ability to wrap these deeper messages up in funny anecdotes and silly jokes is a testament to the breadth of his skill.
He’ll be recording Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast episodes most Sunday afternoons and taking his new show Happy Now? around the UK later this year and in Spring 2016. See his website for full details.