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Liverpool Comedy Festival review: Richard Herring - The Headmaster's Son
by Angela Johnson. Published Tue 05 May 2009 12:01, Last updated: 5 May 2009
Kick-starting the Liverpool Comedy Festival with superbly delivered autobiographical musings in The Headmaster's Son, Richard Herring poses some age old questions.
Is it nature or nuture that forms our personality? Is examining your past demons a wise idea? Did Elisabeth Fritzl really have it that bad compared to a spotty young boy from Somerset?
Herring is master craftsman at labouring a joke for extended laughs, and in this show he repeatedly offers up his own life as the both the feed and punchline.
For good measure he litters this show with a spot of unique blasphemy, blowing smoke out of rather than up Jesus' posterior, explores an arguably laudable idea to combat paedophilia, and dares to utter heartless yet hilarious comments about our new 'candle in the wind' Jade Goody, which sadly cannot be repeated here.
Herring's primary concern is whether the reason he is a single, immature, sex-obsessed 41-year-old, unable to maintain a steady relationship with anything other than comedy, can be blamed on the fact he was The Headmaster's Son.
Avoiding bullies and forming friendships made doubly difficult for this already socially awkward, chubby teen who always wore his blazer and carried a briefcase to school; choosing to conform rather than take the far more obvious route to rebellion by actually rebelling.
Herring bares his teenage soul to the audience, lacing his dialogue with highly amusing extracts from his 15-year-old self's diary, which he confesses he compiled under the belief he would one day be an historical figure comparable to the likes of Gandhi.
It is a joy to discover Herring's juvenile views on the world, sex-mad and arrogant, are no less hilarious than the grown up Herring's, who continues to tirelessly write a daily blog documenting musings on the mundanities in his life. (Available to buy from Amazon - see link below.)
Talking us through his relationship with his peers, father, his first girlfriend, and indeed himself, the show climaxes with a bizarre conversation between Herring and his 15-year old self.
An interesting if somewhat laborious discussion through which Herring justifies his rootless existence due to his younger self's desire to become a comedian, and to touch a girl's breasts. The lifestyle the 15-year-old craved is the life the 41-year-old is living.
A delightful mix of self-indulgence and self-deprecation, Herring holds himself rather than a mirror up to the audience. Concluding that his father's position as Headmaster had little to do with Herring's hopes and dreams, eventually admitting he was perhaps more popular at school because his father was so well-loved.
While Herring is not quite the comic 'genius' he frequently refers to himself as, this is an unusual approach to a comedy show which lesser comics would struggle to execute with such aplomb. At one stage managing to insult a room full of scousers and be rewarded with laughs rather than two black eyes.
Herring's public self-therapy session invites us to forgive his childish demeanour, to accept his and our own screw ups and, rather than berate ourselves for them, allow them to raise a smile.