Richard Herring: The Best, Sunday 2nd April, St David’s Hall, reviewer: Becca Moody
Richard Herring is showcasing the best of his material from the last twelve shows, after revisiting them all for one-off performances in 2015. The aim is to represent each of the various aspects of his comedy style equally: a summary of the past sixteen years for the comic; a smorgasbord of Richard Herring, if you will.
The show is at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall and Herring is undeniably on top form. Cheeky as ever and ironic to the point of almost dangerous territory offence-wise, it is clear that here we have a comedian who knows how to kindle some form of response from his audience.
But Herring fans know his game. We know that there is no spite. Intellectual frustration, yes, paired with an inclination towards causing mischief, but this comedian is certainly a safe pair of (outrageously small) hands.
For those of us who are only aware of Richard’s work through his Leicester Square Theatre Podcast or the As It Occurs To Me podcast (perhaps those who weren’t watching all that much comedy in late 1990s, due to being a toddler, so didn’t witness Lee and Herring in their peak of double-act acclaim), it may be true that our discernment of Herring’s stand up style is relatively limited.
Now, I’ve heard the ridiculously imaginative and crude ‘emergency questions’ that feature on RHLSTP, and yet still find myself a little surprised to hear how conceptual and whimsical Richard’s material can become. The comedian takes a concept grounded in his own reality (such as the first Valentines’ day he shared with his wife) before teasing the idea until it balloons up into something of its own entirely. And there’s such an energy pushing these ideas forward that audiences find it impossible not to be swept up in the ludicrous nature of it all.
Herring is also an extremely experienced constructor of comedy narratives, which is no doubt the result of those countless years spent assembling shows for the Edinburgh Festival and touring them nationwide. The message is one of development, whether that refers to within Herring himself over the past sixteen years, or the stability he has found in getting married and starting a family. The most notable aspect for me is the realisation that this show really has heart.
A great deal of Herring’s projects are crowd-funded, so, charitable as ever, each audience member is treated to a free tour show programme. There is a real communal effort driving this comedy forward, which is something I’ve seen nothing quite like before. Herring warns us that ‘the best doesn’t mean it’s good, it just means it’s the least worst’, but I can confirm that Herring is in fact quite close to the best (maybe ranking just after Stewart Lee).