Richard Herring: Menage A Un

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Richard Herring seems to have written more Fringe shows than
there have been actual Fringes ­ every year something different,
and every year something worth seeing.

This festival sees his most traditional stand-up show yet.
Herring has previously preferred heavily themed ideas, and even
last year's foray into the more conversational genre was built
around a contrivance ­ seeing just how far he could push
the most inconsequential yoghurt-based material.

Menage A Un ­ so named because Herring considers stand-up
the most masturbatory of all art forms ­ is punchier, more
wide-ranging and more gag-driven than before.

That's clear from the very start, as he unleashes a brief
but pacy stream of jokes, including solving the millennia-old
riddle of the Sphynx within the first five minutes. Not many
Fringe shows can make that boast.

He talks a little about his success, or otherwise, with women
and his ensuing loneliness; but his strongest suit is in applying
unbending logic to such ridiculous extremes that anything, however
ludicrous, can be proven: that Maxine Carr is less evil than
Steve Martin, or that leaving a TV on standby is worse than paedophilia.
Herring has some superior fun with the disapproval that reaches
these conclusions, and his tongue-in-cheek insistence that he
is right, skilfully playing with the audience reaction and expectations.

His policy of pushing and prodding at every subject until
it yields some preposterous idea reaches its zenith as he mocks
the French language. You'll never see an apple in quite the same
way again. That logic is also applied inventively to his own
material, to the conclusion that he might be 'like Bernard Manning,
only much, much worse'.

In these, and another inspired segment about insulting playground
gestures to insinuate someone is gay, he sets the bar very high;
but it's a level not everything can live up to. Routines on stupid
puns in business names or the Jean Paul de Menezes shooting are
ordinary by comparison.

But at his best, Herring produces some of the most inventive,
original and funny stand-up at the festival.

In the glossy, free programme, he ponders why he keeps coming
back to Edinburgh year after year. One answer must surely be:
'because he's good at it'.

Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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