Scotsman review of COAB

Comedy review: Richard Herring - Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming

Published: 24/8/2010
Edinburgh Festival Fringe

In Christ on a Bike Richard Herring confidently debates the dafter aspects of the New Testament

In Christ on a Bike Richard Herring confidently debates the dafter aspects of the New Testament

"Solid" is probably the best word for this update of Richard Herring's 2001 show. "Honed" and "polished" might do. "Retread" would be lazy, ignoring how far his confidence and craft have developed recently.

The conceit of the previous version, a David Icke messiah complex, has been pretty much dumped, referenced with a line only fans would notice, so he concentrates on the bread of the matter: how to reconcile an atheist's fascination with the Christian ethos with the self-contradicting doctrine that spawned it.

It's very personal, and you can see he's enjoying it much more than any show he's done for years. It's easy to make jokes about religion, such as the ones about the Pope's Hitler Youth past, but to fit them quietly, seamlessly into a narrative that has genuine personal resonance takes skill and experience, and Herring pulls it off with a new confidence, discarding the arrogant or needy characters he's played before.

The centrepiece is again the eye-opening dual litany of Christ's supposed lineage, now augmented by the decade's advances in technology. It's real, heartfelt and, unlike last year's Hitler Moustache, not particularly confrontational, which does mean it is a lot less challenging: it's not pushing any boundaries; he's not trying to ape Stewart Lee's punishing experiments with form or content; it's just well-written and cohesive comedy.

Don't expect much audience interaction - Herring's work (podcasts aside) has often been more like theatre than stand-up - nor a reductionist tirade of the kind that you can hear most nights on Radio 4. There's profanity, yes, but only the thinnest-skinned could be offended, which some might say is a weakness. But, for a change, try watching someone who knows how to be truly offensive dialling it right down for a night. It is a great way to spend an hour.