Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
Richard Herring has had quite an eventful couple of years. He is now a 48-year-old husband and father of a small baby girl. But is he happy now? This is the topic of Herring’s 12th solo. Like all of his previous musings he delves quite deeply into his personal life only, this time, he joyously informs us, he can do some material like lots of other comedians do when they have a baby.
The intellectual twist Herring employs this time around (unlike other comedians doing observational gags about nappies and sleep deprivation) is an age-old philosophical pondering – that is, how do we know happiness if we never experience sadness and vice versa? This is not a new thought in comedy. Australian comic Adam Hills pondered this a few years ago with his Happyism tour and recent Pixar film Inside Out questions this very same topic. Herring seems to be exploring this topic himself at the most opportune of moments in his life with the arrival of his daughter and the beginning of a whole new chapter.
Herring starts off his routine, obviously enough, with the night his child was born and the strange few hours of seeing his wife in pain and giving birth. But, actually, the strange thing about most of this material in the first half is that Herring, ironically, gives us a fairly solid, run of the mill thirty minutes on becoming a father … dare I say it, like any other comedian. He confesses that ‘the pram in the hall’ may have curbed his creativity or dulled his edginess. At first, this seems to be the case but he is able to subvert this and reverts back to the comedian he thinks he may have been ten years ago with his discussion of the morals of possibly having an affair with a life-like robot at some point in the distant future.
In the second half Herring moves away a little from familial territory as he questions the grammatical correctness of his in-law’s door mat which welcomes visitors with ‘Grand Children Spoilt Here’. And his five minute routine deconstructing the lyrics of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed is extremely funny. At the heart of his show is the obvious love he feels for what he affectionately calls the little piece of ‘sexcrement’ that has entered his life.
A prolific blogger, podcaster and stand-up comedian Herring is a busy man. He confesses that up to very recently his life has been totally focussed on his career and with the shift of priorities he is questioning what happiness really is and whether it is even achievable at all. Its transient nature means that it is, if we recognise it at the time, all too fleeting. And also frustratingly paradoxical as the realisation of happiness may well bring with it its own despair. Herring sums this all up nicely by using the image a three year old eating cornetto and the happiness it brings in that moment – whether they remember it or not. Carpe diem indeed.
All of Herring’s shows can be neatly described as comic essays designed to make you laugh and to think – to educate and question preconceptions at the same time. Some of this show feels like he has taken a slightly easier route to ‘becoming’ the comedian he has tried to avoid his entire career. This does not last for the entirety and we do genuinely exit the show happier than when we entered. Who are we competing with? No matter who we are or how successful we become there will always be someone doing that little bit better. And always remember that there may be others looking up at you.
You will not come out of this show with sore ribs or an aching face but you will leave with a new-found appreciation of the small things in your life that you may have taken for granted or forgot they make you happy.
Reviewed 19 February 2016 | Image: Contributed