On line review from Derek O'Brien
Richard Herring - Someone Likes Yoghurt
Contributed by Derek O'Brien
Thursday, 27 October 2005 - 10:50
The trouble with writing about comedians is that you watch too many of them. That is, after scores of gigs and hundreds of sets that are good, bad and indifferent, you develop a critical, or at least a forensic eye. Your sense of openness, the ability to just sit back and enjoy someone telling you something funny, is papered over. It's like magicians attending one of their colleagues' shows, and then sitting and saying to themselves or each other, "You can see where the false panels are." Some comedians can be even worse at such events, as there's an additional element of identification and competition. Thankfully for me I have no desire to stand before a mic and tell people the one about the nun, the duck and the bar of soap (you've probably heard it before already).
When I watch an act, one of three things happens:
1. I think they're good, and I immediately start analysing why.
2. I think they're not so good, and I immediately start analysing why.
I simply enjoy myself. This might seem a repeat of Option 1, but it isn't. I've seen many comedians who are technically proficient, who believe they know how to look and sound, have studied all the right tomes and have rehearsed the timing, rhythm and content of their gags to maximise laughs with mathematical precision. But you can still see the where the false panels are. Others, however, do it without any seeming effort or deliberation on their part. Then you are swallowed up by it, and you return to those days when you first started listening to stand-up, and had no other objectives than to have a good time.
The third option is rare, and all the more wonderful for when it does happen. Richard Herring's 'Someone Likes Yoghurt' was one such experience, where, after twenty minutes, I found that I had stopped taking notes, being too busy laughing and enjoying myself, and just put my notebook and pen aside.
This is his twentieth show on the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as his return to straight solo standup after over thirteen years of writing for other people in various capacities. But there were no nerves, no atrophy of skills to be seen, as he strode onto stage with a driving confidence most comics on the circuit would give their best George Bush jokes to possess.
Looking like the coolest supply teacher you could possibly get, the one you once had in your class and always wanted back, he immediately grasped and kept the sold-out crowd in thrall, with an hour of hilarious, intelligent, brilliantly polished observations. With bête noires ranging from Kipling (thankfully the writer, not the more important cakemonger) to magpie superstitions to Papal succession to, of course, yoghurt (culminating with a fabulous, full-on tirade as he explained the origin of his current show's name), he took things to their illogic conclusion, hitting all of his targets with wonderful precision.
As a comedian he is, as contradictory as it may seem, not easily seen in his act. This is not to say that he has no onstage persona. Far from it, he is at turns affable, defiant, wicked, sympathetic, committed and committable. But he doesn't let the set become secondary to his ego. He does not try to impress or shock, or show he still "has it". He doesn't need to. He has nothing to prove to his audience, only something to tell them. He is uncompromising, but not in an arrogant, hubris-driven way. He is sharp, but doesn't have to stab you to prove it. He has no need or desire to curry favour with the current gagerati, or those punters who follow them. His moments of outrageous invention make people laugh because they're funny, not because they're outrageous.
And he has been making people laugh for over 17 years. And he's younger than me. And though I still have no desire to be a comedian, I remain Hulk-green with envy at his talents.