Manchester Evening News review of menage a un
Richard Herring @ Oldham Coliseum
COMING of age is an ugly thing. Not becoming 18 or 21 - although both are often lost in a less than gracious drink-fuelled haze - but turning 40.
It's a moment that's certainly got Richard Herring in something of a spin. Menage a Un makes the most out of Herring's bitterness at staring down the barrel of 40.
And it's little wonder; he's 39, single again and (despite being the star of shows like Fist of Fun and This Morning with Richard Not Judy) forced to use his public appearances to appeal to lonely ticket holders to come back to his hotel room.
What makes Herring an engaging stand-up is his bookish analysis of topics that, stripped bare of Richard's finicky digressions, are essentailly rambunctious ramblings on laddish humour.
And so, we soon discover Herring's views on promiscuity, threesomes and onanism, all of which are treated with the kind of detailed analysis you might expect from a man with "a 2:1 in history from Oxford University".
Gags about being unmarried in a world where even Maxine Carr is betrothed, and a satirical skit about bad puns in which a car wash called The Hand Job takes the brunt of his aggression turn otherwise base topics into linguistic gems.
And, equally, that love of langague provides some seriouly cuddly moments, none more so than his accusation that butter brand Olivio is forcing people into long-term relationships because it sounds a bit like 'I love you'. It's a side that offsets the rich vein that is Herring's blatant misanthropy.
Take his exhaustive baiting of the French for calling a potato an 'apple of the earth', his assertion that BNP voters should be disenfranchised ("Fight fascism with fascism", he sneers provacatively in a town where the party have had substantial success), or a skillful piece of mock sabotage when Richard becomes two old people discussing existentialism to rescue a rubbish joke.
Even the audience takes a bit of a beating: "If I had a gun, hundreds of you would be dead", he jokes after defending the police's record on shooting innocent people, while at other moments he chastises us for the points we disapprove of near-the-knuckle jokes about child murder or blasphemy.
Forty might be a scary number, then. But it's given Richard Herring's stand-up career a late lease of life.