Telegraph review of COAB London
Christ on a Bike, Leicester Square Theatre/R
Those who doubt comedy’s ability to probe deeply should harken unto Herring. Herring: * * * *;
By Dominic Cavendish 4:58PM GMT 22 Dec 2010
Philosophy bod AC Grayling is grandly unveiling a secular “bible” in 2011 wittily entitled “The Good Book”, “drawing on the wisdom of 2,500 years of contemplative non-religious writing”. I’m looking forward to its release, and even more so to the moment when a stand-up comedian comes out on stage and mercilessly pillories it. Religion is the itch that the wiser-than-thou men of comedy keep wanting to scratch these days, and while the result can be scabrously entertaining, an air of preachy repetition – not unlike that of a church catechism class – has begun to creep in.
Just before bible-bashing becomes so de rigueur as to turn offensively predictable, though, Richard Herring has brought a classier kind of sacrilege to London in the shape of “Christ on a Bike”. If you’re in any way God-fearing then this isn’t the show for you, including as it does a nit-picking dissection of the lesser known sub-clauses of the Ten Commandments (“God has to think on his feet, like Michael McIntyre”), such pearls of provocation as “I’ve shown that the New Testament is a load of s**t”, and the irreverent demand to know how many weeks of consuming Catholic communion wafers it would take “before you’d eaten an entire Jesus”.
The reason the evening should appeal to a constituency wider than just rabid atheists, though, is that Herring puts his compulsion to mock and interrogate Our Lord under the finely focused microscope of his own mirth too. This show is the resurrected incarnation of his debut touring vehicle of 2001 – compounding the puzzle at its centre: if Christ was such a fraud why does he obsess about him?
That abiding incredulity at his enduring fascination means that even when he’s sneering at faith and its touchstones, his burbling critique – which centres on a dream encounter involving a Tortoise and Hare style bike-race with the Son of God – is undercut with a sense of his own presumption, ignorance and fallibility. In ridiculing, for instance, how the Gospel according to Matthew lays out the genealogy of Christ back to Abraham, Herring also shows that he knows the entire thing off by heart. And the evening’s pay-off contains such a mood-altering confession of admiration that a spirit of profundity enters the room and walks among us. Verily I say unto you – those who doubt comedy’s ability to probe deeply should harken unto Herring.