Richard Herring

Richard Herring

Date of birth: 12-07-1967

Richard Herring: Can I Have My Ball Back?

Review of the comedian's tour about his testicular cancer

It’s definitely wrong to try to rank the funniest forms of cancer a comedian could get. But if we were – and, of course, we wouldn’t – testicular must be up there. Not only as one of the most survivable, if caught early, but for all the potential it offers to talk about balls.

Given Richard Herring has built at least some of his long career on knob gags – in Talking Cock he literally wrote the book on the subject – his brush with the disease has given him carte blanche to use every innuendo and silly euphemism for his seed satchels he can, and it’s an opportunity he has gleefully seized.

There’s something charming about the way he clings to schoolboy-like giggles about the subject, even in the face of a diagnosis that made him confront his mortality. In a touching through-line, he’s forced to consider his young children growing up with no memory of him, so he struggles to imprint a few defining moments before it’s too late.

Not that this is ever mawkish: his forced attempts at bonding are generally doomed to hapless failure, and in the retelling we’re never far from another childish gag about his love spuds. Plus his wittily cynical daughter – a future comedian by the sound of it – is always there to deflate his paternal ideals.

 With a similarly light touch, Herring touches upon the symbolism of testicles, the source of so much macho pride – which seems so ridiculous given how preposterous and fragile the appendages are.

Perhaps the mood is light as the comedian frankly confesses to feeling like a ‘cancer tourist’ – even a fraud. He may have lost one of his clackers to the disease, and faced up to some psychological big truths – but the medical side of things goes pretty smoothly, even during Covid.

Indeed, other comedians such as Rhod Gilbert and Janey Godley have been through a tougher time with their cancers, which gives their stand-up a heftier emotional wallop. But Herring offers a different public service function, reminding his audience that testicular cancer is very curable and not necessarily anything to fear, so check your balls, lads.

Can I Have My Ball Back? is Herring’s first tour in six years and draws heavily on the book of the same name, although it’s looser around the edges, perhaps understandably given he’s so prolific in the less filtered, more instantaneous online space. 

He hits the ground assuming the audience know the background to this show and his career, and closes with a low-rent ventriloquist act using a puppet incarnation of his toxic sperm sphere – literally a talking bollock –  that’s funny for a while, but becomes self-indulgent. And his talents are not such that Nina Conti will be losing any sleep that there’s a new rival in town.

But the story of his journey through the NHS, the consideration of whether he is less of a man now he’s a monoball, just like Hitler, and his readjusted priorities are all skilfully told with an endearing modesty and easy wit. You’ll have a ball!

» Richard Herring: Can I Have My Ball Back? is on tour until July 16. Richard Herring tour dates

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Published: 11 Jun 2024

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Richard Herring: Christ On A Bike!

Edinburgh Fringe 2002

Richard Herring: Talking Cock

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Richard Herring: Menage A Un

Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Richard Herring: Oh Fuck, I'm 40

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Richard Herring: RHLSTP

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Richard Herring: RHLSTP

Montreal 2007

Britcom 2007


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