Review of the Headmaster's Son at doyou.co.uk
Richard Herring - The Headmaster's Son
Date: 07.08.08 (6 review reads)
Rating: 5 stars
Advantages: Moving, sweet and thoughtful, but still makes time for high quality knob gags.
Disadvantages: Less jokes, so may not appeal to comedy fans as much as previous years.
Richard Herring's latest Fringe show is a mostly serious reflection back on his Somerset upbringing, examining the choices and environmental factors that led to his life turning out so ridiculously. At forty-one years of age, the nationally-known comedian has never married or had children like many of his friends have achieved, and he earns a living driving around the nation discussing cocks and arguing the social benefits of masturbating a paedophile. Where did it all go wrong? Is this really the future the sixteen-year-old schoolboy from Cheddar envisaged for himself - and if not, can the blame all be conveniently offloaded on the fact that his dad was the school's headmaster?
While last year's 'Oh F*ck I'm 40' fused uproarious comedy and genuine depression, 'The Headmaster's Son' is overall a more thoughtful affair, excusably self-indulgent as Herring recites from his old diaries as an arrogant, naive virgin with as much clue about the world as any sixteen-year-old. This is a very honest and personal show, a departure from the petty, angry persona that has characterised Herring's shows since his return to straight stand-up, but long-time fans will still be pleased as he continues to push the boundaries of taste a little too far, and still includes token material on Jesus and cocks. The latter even extends to a revival of Herring's first live performance, the short ditty 'My Penis Can Sing,' which is almost as embarrassing to watch as it must be to perform.
By concentrating on these overarching themes of adolescence and ambition, the show holds together more naturally than Herring's previous stand-up hours that leapt between five or six arbitrary topics, and the debate reaches a crescendo as the forty-one-year-old Richard Herring conceives an encounter with his sixteen-year-old self, in more disturbing detail than when Rob Newman did it. This show doesn't aim to be instantly gratifying in the manner of the comedian's shorter stand-up sets, but this also means that its appeal reaches beyond the standard comedy club crowd, especially as it approaches an emotional finale that forsakes punchlines in favour of thought-provoking moral lessons. Even my mum liked it, which is really saying something.