4 star review for menage a un in Chortle
Richard Herring seems to have written more Fringe shows than there have been actual Fringes every year something different, and every year something worth seeing.
This festival sees his most traditional stand-up show yet. Herring has previously preferred heavily themed ideas, and even last year's foray into the more conversational genre was built around a contrivance seeing just how far he could push the most inconsequential yoghurt-based material.
Menage A Un so named because Herring considers stand-up the most masturbatory of all art forms is punchier, more wide-ranging and more gag-driven than before.
That's clear from the very start, as he unleashes a brief but pacy stream of jokes, including solving the millennia-old riddle of the Sphynx within the first five minutes. Not many Fringe shows can make that boast.
He talks a little about his success, or otherwise, with women and his ensuing loneliness; but his strongest suit is in applying unbending logic to such ridiculous extremes that anything, however ludicrous, can be proven: that Maxine Carr is less evil than Steve Martin, or that leaving a TV on standby is worse than paedophilia. Herring has some superior fun with the disapproval that reaches these conclusions, and his tongue-in-cheek insistence that he is right, skilfully playing with the audience reaction and expectations.
His policy of pushing and prodding at every subject until it yields some preposterous idea reaches its zenith as he mocks the French language. You'll never see an apple in quite the same way again. That logic is also applied inventively to his own material, to the conclusion that he might be 'like Bernard Manning, only much, much worse'.
In these, and another inspired segment about insulting playground gestures to insinuate someone is gay, he sets the bar very high; but it's a level not everything can live up to. Routines on stupid puns in business names or the Jean Paul de Menezes shooting are ordinary by comparison.
But at his best, Herring produces some of the most inventive, original and funny stand-up at the festival.
In the glossy, free programme, he ponders why he keeps coming back to Edinburgh year after year. One answer must surely be: 'because he's good at it'.