Richard Herring â€“ review
Leicester Square theatre, London
The standup was on excellent form dismantling the half-truths we tell to keep oblivion at bay
14th October 2013
We're All Going to Die! Richard Herring tells us in the title of his new show â€“ an exploration of the ways we feel about death. The exploration doesn't yield great discoveries (that title sets the standard as far as revelations go). But it finds Herring on (mostly) excellent debunking form, delighting in dismantling the half-truths we tell one another to keep oblivion at bay.
The show's inspiration seems to be the recent demise of Herring's 102-year-old gran. The subject elicits a heartfelt if joke-free mid-set homily about what traces, if any, we leave behind. Herring plans to survive as a particularly durable fossil. Heaven isn't on the cards: he exposes its flimsy logic, suggesting its origins as a hastily improvised consolation to bereaved children. (He also discusses celestial "bumming" and "wanking" â€“ twin obsessions that Herring never quite grows out of.)
If it doesn't feel fresh to see a comic dismember biblical superstitions, at least Herring does it with forensic rigour, a sense of fun and some fine jokes. His point-by-point lampoon of the kiddies' song I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly induces deja vu, too: shades of Stewart Lee on The Owl and the Pussycat, to cite just one precedent. But Herring's remorseless nitpicking brings big laughs all the same.
In that spirit of pedantry, I must say that plenty of these routines have little to do with death. The best concerns a periodical called Railways and the Holocaust, on the concept, presentation and execution of which Herring performs a ruthless takedown â€“ which includes a choice parallel between the magazine's delusions of grandeur (it calls itself a "book-azine") and Nazi ideology of racial superiority. It's classic Herring, in that it introduces us to a fish in a barrel, puts the shotgun to one side, then takes the poor creature apart bone by bone.