Frog and Bucket, Manchester
The UKâ€™s hardest-working comedian brought his Edinburgh Festival show to a sold-out Frog and Bucket, bringing much-needed laughter on a grim and rainy Wednesday night in October. As ever, when you see a show in a different venue, there are pluses and minuses.
The pluses were evident from the word go. Herring was able to extend the material over a more leisurely ninety minutes, instead of the brisk one-hour slots that are the Edinburgh norm, and it was also clear that heâ€™d honed and polished the material since August, extracting every ounce of humour from it. His unique, hectoring style is a joy to behold, finding laughs in the most unlikely places and time and again, he strays perilously close to the indefensible, only to dance nimbly away, defusing the whole thing with a barrage of carefully chosen invective. Laugh and learn folks, laugh and learn. At times, the packed audience was near to hysteria.
The minuses were mostly imposed on Herring by circumstances beyond his control. He couldnâ€™t, for instance, recreate the ingenious circular narrative of the original shows, mostly because of the confines of the clubâ€™s tiny stage and the fact that the titular settee (freshly sourced for each location, apparently) looked as though it would have resulted in broken limbs if heâ€™d tried to do what he did in Edinburgh. But ultimately, it didnâ€™t matter. A friend at our table judged this to be one of the best comedy shows heâ€™d ever seen and the iconic name of Daniel Kitson was mentioned as a suitable comparison. This was also an opportunity to get hold of the (reasonably priced and much-longed for) Fist of Fun DVDs. There are still some seats available for later in the tour (Crewe in particular, judging by an off-the-cuff remark that Herring made onstage) so if you have the chance to catch a show, then I would strongly advise you to take it.
Laughter is in perilously short supply these days and this is comedy gold.
Assembly, George Square Theatre, Edinburgh
There surely isnâ€™t a harder working comedian than Richard Herring â€“ and no trip to the fringe would be complete without a set from him. This year we also have the opportunity to see a play heâ€™s written, I Killed Rasputin (more of that in due course). His stand up event, Lord of the Dance Settee, is perhaps less tied to a concept than previous outings; he himself describes it as a collection of â€˜bits and piecesâ€™ â€“ but that hardly does it justice. A visibly slimmed down version of Herring bounds enthusiastically onto the stage and launches into some recollections from childhood â€“ though of course, these are much more edgy than they would be in the hands of a lesser comic â€“ and you find yourself laughing (sometimes uncontrollably). Just when you think the event is going to be allowed to peter out, he ties everything together, quite brilliantly, with an ending heâ€™s asked reviewers not to revealâ€¦ So Iâ€™ll simply say that it is joyful, heart warming and totally unexpected. Itâ€™s been said before (mainly by him) but Herring really is the King of the Fringe. Long may he reign.