4 star review in Telegraph for Can I Have My Ball Back?

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Richard Herring: Can I Have My Ball Back?: this cancer testimony is like It’s a Wonderful Life, without the jeopardy


After six years away, the seasoned stand-up returns with a funny and touching new show chronicling his diagnosis with testicular cancer
Stephen Armstrong9 May 2024 • 11:44am



Cancer is not funny, but testicles are, Richard Herring offers at the outset, so he hopes the evening will come out a win. His relentless affability ensures it. Ostensibly a tale of a man battling testicular cancer, Herring’s headlong dive into the life-affirming effects of staring death in the face and walking away is a lightly uplifting British version of It’s a Wonderful Life, without the jeopardy.

This is an experienced stand-up who knows his craft returning to form after six years off stage. Diagnosed during lockdown, Herring’s first response is to weep for his five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, the latter being the most consistent heckler of his life. He delights in recounting her callous disrespect, her refusal to call him daddy and her prediction that he’ll be dead in 14 months.

Herring has spent a good chunk of his career exploring masculinity: his book the Problem with Men, solo shows Talking Cock and Talking Cock: the Second Coming (the poster of which featured him with an Action Man’s smooth groin), plus a short film While You Were Away about a man removing his genitals. It’s as if he was preparing us all along.

He teases masculinity from within his happy family – if testicles are the most vulnerable part of a man’s body, he wonders, why do we associate them with strength and power? As he journeys from GP surgery to ultrasound unit to CT scanner, operating theatre and chemo ward, he muses on his 1990s TV success and minor celebrity status, huffing when a doctor asks his name and finding group of nurses gathered around his bed post-op to see the celebrity they’ve been told is on the ward. (They drift away unimpressed.)

Riffs on whether male equipment is essential to being a man glide around concepts of gender identity with an effortless confidence and certainty that would humiliate whining men’s rights activists – people he likes to taunt on Twitter by informing them of the exact date of International Men’s Day. He loses focus arguing with a ventriloquist’s puppet version of his severed testicle, but reassures us “come back in a month and this will be completely different.” Towards the end he confesses he feels like a cancer tourist, watching others in the waiting room facing greater odds. “I didn’t battle cancer,” he explains. “I lay back and let the doctors defeat it for me.”

His faith in the NHS, love for his family and subsummation of personal defiance into the collective endeavour feel almost radical: stay healthy, check yourself and trust in love and expertise. 

Touring nationwide; richardherring.com