January 5, 2011 Wednesday
BYLINE: Clive Davis
SECTION: T2;FEATURES; Pg. 15
LENGTH: 362 words
Leicester Square Theatre, WC2 ***
Have you heard the one about the comedian and the Bible? No doubt you have, since deconstructing religion has become one of the most familiar gambits in the stand-up trade. Tim Minchin turned the elements of militant Dawkinism into a foot-tapping tune on his recent stadium tour, while every other comic on the block can supply a decent explanation of why, as they see it, going to church wastes time that could be better spent at the pub. (I exaggerate, but only just.) What was daring in the days of Life of Brian is conventional now.
Still, although Richard Herring is treading a well-worn path, few acts explore the theme of faith versus dogma with quite as much intelligence and wit. Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming, an updated version of a show that he first performed a decade ago, offers an ingenious blend of fantasy and autobiography.
The passages devoted to his mildly eccentric West Country childhood have genuine poignancy about them and his mischievous textual analysis of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke generates the funniest lines of the night. If he sometimes opts for soft targets, he casts a shrewd eye over issues of authenticity. Even a devout believer would surely have to concede that he makes some persuasive points about the internal logic of the Ten Commandments.
Those moments make the occasional lapse into puerile willy jokes seem all the more glaring. As with his last show, devoted to the mysteries of Hitler's moustache, the script sags before the close and his summing-up, which attempts to equate belief in God with belief in democracy, would probably not even get past the gatekeepers on Thought for the Day.
Herring's delivery also has a touch of the soapbox about it - he is too fond of haranguing listeners who, to judge by the show of hands at the end, already share his opinion of the historical accuracy of the Gospels or the Pope's stint in the Hitler Youth. Fortunately, he is still open to self-doubt. Given that his parents are believers, would it really give him any satisfaction, he wonders, to convert them to his brand of atheism? Probably not.