Review: Richard Herring, Cheltenham Town Hall
"We're laughing and learning tonight" announced the besuited Herring, bringing his Lord of the Dance Settee tour to Cheltenham. The self-proclaimed 'uncool' veteran comedian delivered a set in the Pillar Room of the Town Hall which was frenetic and disjointed, but entertained throughout - and was indeed educational. Cheltenham now knows, for example, that a sombrero can lighten the most morbid of situations.
Herring's 90 minute set by his own admission had no real theme or direction. His material flit between historical and literary references, to social media grievances, to awkward anecdotes from his comedic career. His assertion that he wrote his best work as a teenager is a self-deprecating injustice, as throughout his show he had a zealous and hilarious rant on just about every zany topic imaginable.
An avid tweeter, he had the 200-strong audience in stitches as he described dealing with "wassocks" online. Herring turned blue in the face describing the pedantry and dissection his gags often face on social media, but they were met with unadulterated laughter from the Cheltenham audience on the night.
Although less than cohesive, Herring's show was lively and clever. His previous tours have explored issues of mortality (We're All Going To Die), love (What Is Love, Anyway?) and religion (Christ on a Bike). Despite the lighter subject matter, it remains apparent that Herring's flirtation with silliness is born from self-exploration and a tendency for the surreal. Musings on fried chicken outlets quickly morphed into a rant about school hymns; which in turn led to an anecdote about kissing elderly relatives. It's an amusing mishmash of miscellany.
Herring's a good egg, too: the Town Hall was lined with bucket collectors benefiting disability charity Scope, which he champions during his set and has raised £250,000 for to date.
It's hard not to admire this comedian's dedication to his material; he makes it work even if it's essentially daft thoughts strung together - and Cheltenham lapped it up.