Beyond the Joke reviews Queen Elizabeth Hall gig

Live Review: Richard Herring, Queen Elizabeth Hall, SE1

A decade ago Richard Herring dissected middle age with Oh Fuck, I'm 40. The sequel ten years on finds him in a different place. Back then it was a wild life of drinking, partying and one-night-stands of both the gigging and sexual variety. Times have changed. He is no longer a drunken, libidinous fool, more just a fool with a wife and two children. This prestigious gig, being filmed for DVD release, was a different kind of one night stand, probably the biggest gig of his career.

But anyone expecting Herring's humour to have evolved along with his domestic arrangements needs to think again. He is still the puerile manchild who spots the silliness in every single thing that happens to him. It may not please all of the people who buy tickets for his shows – he reads out a very funny letter of complaint from one disgruntled punter – but it definitely touches a nerve among other man children. Note: there were a few women children in the audience too but I'd hazard that they were in the minority.

At times the material here is the familiar stuff of the middle-aged stand-up. Ricky Gervais has also been doing a routine about the journey south his undercarriage has latterly undertaken. Herring, if anything pushes the scrotal-sag thought even further to winkle out as much comic coinage as possible. There's a very well-observed story about a skiing trip when he describes lugging his skis up a mountain "like Christ on the road to Calvary." He's also very good on the nature of memory, noting that just driving past a venue he performed at thirty years ago can evoke the flavour of the potato he ate in the adjoining cafe.

And of course being a parent is extremely fertile ground. The comic has become slightly obsessed with a children's game called Penguin Race, in which plastic penguins climb to the top of a slide, slide down and then doing it over and over again until the batteries run out. Could this Sisyphusian toy be the perfect metaphor for life? 

Beyond the childish gags and confessions that he fancies a certain children's TV presenter this is an exceptionally well-crafted show. Lines early on turn out to be set-ups for bigger laughs later on. The ten-years-on structure works particularly neatly when he recalls a punch-up he had in Liverpool just before he hit forty and then follows that up with an anecdote about an altercation just before his fiftieth birthday. While the first account has a number of exquisite pay-offs, the second ends in a different way that maybe echoes exactly what life is like when one is halfway towards a century.

Herring is definitely a much better stand-up than he was ten years ago. Sometimes in the past he has had a tendency to race through his material - particularly at the Edinburgh Fringe where he has often had a lot to squeeze into an hour. Here with a two hour slot the material had room to breathe. And so did Herring. Hopefully he will keep breathing for at least another decade of arthritis, hearing loss and older offspring resenting him. Roll on Oh Shit, I'm Sixty.