Richard Herring: Christ On A Bike – The Second Coming

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Ah, what more festive way to mark the birth of Christ that with a comedy show questioning the very tenets of the religion set up in his name?

This a resurrected version of the show Richard Herring first performed at Edinburgh almost a decade ago, when he was the same age Jesus was when he was crucified. The key premise then, as now, was whether Herring had achieved as much in his life as the Messiah did in his, concluding that not only was a it close-run thing, but that this comedian-wastrel might indeed be the Second Coming. ‘I'm not saying I'm Jesus,’ he counters. ‘That is for other people to say.’

In the intervening years, atheism has risen exponentially in stand-up to become comedy’s de facto stance. In this audience of maybe 150, Herring could find just two people who thought Jesus was the son of God.

In a mostly successful attempt to stand apart from the crowd taking pot-shots at this easiest of targets, Herring has at least done his homework; highlighted in a particularly impressive routine demolishing Matthew 1 – that tedious list of all the ‘begats’ showing Jesus’s genealogy which he has, impressively, committed to memory – and offering a withering literary criticism of the Ten Commandments. They may be the literal words of God, but Herring makes them appear the verbose ramblings of a madman, as once again logic proves the enemy of the wildly inconsistent Good Book.

The fact we can’t treat the Gospels as, well, gospel is just one strand of his narrative; alongside his own Messianic ambitions, and the thought that although Christianity has caused so much conflict, it can’t be all bad since such faith made people such as his father, the reigning Cheddar Man Of The Year, lead such a virtuous life. These various trains of thought are all hung on a dream that Herring had in which he had a cycle race with Jesus – hence the title – to prove who was the best.

Some of these threads are left loose, while that narrative device proves a slightly awkward one – possibly due to rustiness, since tonight is the first time Herring has performed the redux show since August, beginning a London residency ahead of a national tour. But what can’t be doubted, even by Thomas, is the succinct wit and intelligence that goes into some of his cocky lines. The Bible may have coined some smart phrases, but the atheists have some too. How many weeks would you have to attend Catholic Communion, Herring ponders, before you had consumed an entire Jesus?

The delivery is more in the formal manner of a sermon than fluid stand-up, and would benefit from being a little looser, but Herring maintains an impishly irreverent tone towards his subject rather than cruel savagery. No one’s faith should be too insulted, thought they might want to take the scriptures with a pinch of salt.

Ultimately, it’s not as incisive or iconoclastic of some of Herring’s other work – and he’s got a lot of shows to his name – so can feel a little safe, especially in an already sceptical world. But the writing is often excellent in this reliably entertaining show. Praise be.

Review date: 20 Dec 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

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