For those of us who meter our lives in Edinburgh Fringes rather than years, it’s a shock to find that its been a decade since Richard Herring’s Oh Fuck I’m 40, which surely was only three or four years ago.
The accelerating march of time is a surprise for him too, a man whose development seems to have been arrested around the age of 20. Yet progress has been made: he is no longer the ‘libidinous idiot’ of 2007, but a married man with a small child and a second on the way. He reckons he got that all achieved just under the wire before his physical deterioration sets in - the knees already give him gyp and those testicles aren't as high as they used to be.
Fans know him to also have the work ethic of an especially keen comedian half his age; pumping out podcasts and sketch shows online as well as his daily blog and time-consuming side projects such as his book of Emergency Questions. It’s a wonder he has time to put together a new stand-up hour each Edinburgh on top of all that.
Sometimes that shows. Herring is a comic who can pump out a prodigious amount of good comedy, but at the expense of delivering a magnum opus he can put his heart and soul into. But while Oh Frig… is superficially a collection of silly stories from his life, it raises some weightier issues too, from the nature of mortality and our insignificance in the ocean of history to pondering the virtue in fidelity if there is no temptation.
The failing body is a familiar comedy trope, of course, and Herring keeps this brief before moving on to material more peculiar to him, as he obsesses about the apparently inconsequential – whether it’s the Jack Black and George Clooney Nespresso advert that (rightly) winds him up or confessing to his inappropriate crushes on CBBCs stars, both humans and puppet.
Television is not the only thing designed for his daughter he enjoys. A toy that has penguins marching endlessly around a track – and the hilariously bad English on its packaging – delights him, as well as providing a metaphor for the futile trudge of life. And if there’s something he’s learned from 30-plus years in comedy, it’s how to drive home a gag with a declamatory, hard-sell delivery.
As always, Herring is occasionally cheekily provocative, such as suggesting that a parent’s love for a child isn’t impressive, just to play with the taboo, or offering a twisted, filthy take on the Peter Kay style of nostalgia, which possibly amuses him more than us, even if he beats reticence down with repetition, as is his wont.
It’s more of a wonder why he tells us of a run-in with a postman, an off-topic argument in which neither of them is really in the right… and, more crucially, doesn’t have particularly funny elements. Yet this story which might have once done for his now-defunct Metro column is his closing routine, providing an odd anticlimax to an otherwise typically strong hour of tongue-in-cheek self-analysis.
Review date: 8 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett