Guardian review of Oh Fuck I'm 40
**** Underbelly, Edinburgh
Friday August 10, 2007
What happens when a comedian's material about the midlife crisis starts to repeat itself? Is it a midlife-crisis crisis? Last year, Richard Herring's show Ménage à Un paraded before us his anxieties about getting old, no longer being a player and being left on the shelf. This year, with a show that marks his 40th birthday, he is doing much the same.
It is still a very funny stand-up set, albeit one without last year's frisson of excitement, when it felt like a veteran comic had suddenly struck a new and rich vein of laughs. The difference this year is that not-so-magic number 40, which affords Herring a view, he says, of both past and future. Ahead is decay and death; behind is an Elysian field that he regrets rushing through: "I've worked so hard, I don't even have a family to ignore," he laments.
Whether or not Herring's depressive shtick represents his reality (I hope not), it is a great base camp for comedy, from which he strikes out at the indignity of middle-aged promiscuity or the absurdities of a grown man dressing like a 20-year-old. That latter routine is the highlight here, as Herring imagines taking at face value the sluttish legends often worn on hip T-shirts: "Free hot dog. Bring your own buns"; "Give me head 'til I'm dead."
What differentiates Herring's comedy, here as elsewhere, are the indefatigable lengths he goes to to wring every aching laugh out of a concept - although the tactic is less effective on a more predictable story about a recent one-night stand. He is also a wicked provocateur, and there is a choice riff ("You know what I hate? I really hate paedophiles") poking fun at the nonces-are-monsters consensus.
While Herring may fear his imminent (supposed) descent, we should savour the vantage point from his current comic peak.
· Until August 26. Box office: 0870-745 3083.