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Richard Herring: What Is Love Anyway

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Ah, love – inspiration for poets everywhere. Though not so much comedians, it’s hate and sneering they seem to do better. Is love really the kiss of death of a stand-up?

Richard Herring said he turned his thoughts to the subject following last year’s Christ On A Bike show about religion, after which he decided to investigate another unprovable supernatural force so many people put blind faith in. That and the fact that after a lot of wild-oats sowing, he’s been with his girlfriend for three and a half years, and feelings that she could be The One made him question his own emotions.

In the first part of the show, he talks about the way the word ‘love’ is bandied about willy-nilly, covering all strengths of meaning. It’s the comedy of pedantry, picking apart the linguistics and even the instincts behind such things as a parent’s love for their child. It does feel a little like a thesis at times, nicely written and thought-provoking, but short on jokes – although Herring rummages around for a gratuitous routine about his ‘sexcrement’ to add some rude fun.

Then we turn to his own romantic history from the age of ten, when his first girlfriend lasted just four breaktimes, to now, at 44. He once again turns to his teenage notebooks, a device he’s in danger of overusing, having employed it in his Oh Fuck I’m 40, Headmaster’s Son and Christ On A Bike shows, so by now I think we know where this is going. Sure enough, the poem he wrote censuring another 18-year-old for sleeping with lots of girls reveals his hopeless naivety, cherophobic (that’s fear of having fun) prudishness, and rather tragic loneliness – which leads to chuckles of superiority over the young Herring… or embarrassed laughs of recognition.

His adult relationships have not been without incident, either – especially when he found himself going out with actress Julia Sawalha, after doing a TV sketch on Fist Of Fun about how he was stalking her, Silence0Of-The-Lambs-style. This continues the tone of being pretty interesting, and moderately funny, but the show’s definitely more in ‘like’ than ‘love’ mode at this stage.

However, Herring pulls it out of the bag with a brilliantly funny routine about Ferrero Rocher and geometric progression which, even when you think you can see where he’s heading, is expressed with such evocative and preposterous imagery, you can’t fail to be thoroughly amused. Following that up with a touching, pathos-tinged yet funny routine about his own familial love gives the show the satisfying conclusion, tying up a few strands, sprinkling it with wistful memories, and cracking warm-hearted gags about the situation.

It makes for another impressive offering from one of Edinburgh’s longest-serving stalwarts.

Review date: 10 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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