South Wales echo on COAB non-controversy

Theatre reels in Herring’s religious comedy

Aug 6 2010 by Kathryn Williams, South Wales Echo

A SOUTH Wales theatre has cancelled the appearance of a controversial comedian on the grounds of offending Christians – despite local religious groups failing to see a problem with his appearance.

Richard Herring, who co-hosts a BBC 6 Saturday morning show, was due to bring his stand-up show Christ on a Bike to the Coliseum in Aberdare over the Easter period next year.

But yesterday the 43-year-old wrote on his Twitter: “Sorry people of Aberdare, the theatre I was booked into have decided this show is too controversial for them, so I won’t be coming!”

In the show, which Herring first performed in 2001, he attempts to discover the true historical Jesus, and find out why he is all things to all men.

The show was first written when Herring was the same age as Jesus Christ when he died, and spurred him into thinking that he hadn’t achieved much during his lifetime.

A spokeswoman for Rhondda Cynon Taf council, which runs the theatre, said the show was cancelled for fear of offending the public during an important time in the Christian calendar.

But last night local Unitarian minister Eric Jones said it was a sign of weakness if challenges to faith could not be expressed.

Rev Jones, from Aberdare, said: “I wonder if it’s the council playing safe and I wonder why that should be?

“I don’t think people who belong to a church should be afraid of this sort of thing.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of things that disagree with the church.

“It’s a sign of weakness if you start to think that our faith cannot be challenged by anyone. These days it is much easier for people to come out for what they believe in.”

The Reverend James Karran, from Cardiff’s Ararat Baptist Church, who runs church services in pubs, said he was “not offended by it one bit”.

He said: “I think it’s important to ask some of the questions that Richard Herring is tackling, and sometimes humour is the most provoking and accessible way of doing that.

“Serious questions have to be asked of Christianity if Christians want their claims to be taken seriously.

“However, I can see that some other church-goers might take his show the wrong way and be offended, so pulling it for the Easter period is a sensible and sensitive decision.

“It shows that Herring does genuinely want to engage in debate about these issues, and isn’t just trying to be offensive for the sake of reviews and media attention.”

Herring, who came to fame in the 1990s with comedy partner Stewart Lee, told the Echo: “I don’t want to make a fuss about it; they’ve probably made the right decision.

“They didn’t want a show about Jesus on Easter week, which I can understand.”

He had previously caused controversy with his 2009 live show, Hitler Moustache, in which he grew a moustache similar to the Nazi dictator’s to see if he “could reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy – it was Chaplin’s first, then Hitler ruined it”.

A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf cultural services said: “Our theatres programming team decided to take the show out of the schedule as we felt its title might offend some members of the public during an important time in the Christian calendar.

“We do include as much comedy as possible in our theatres’ programming and book many exciting and cutting-edge artists.

“We would be happy to have Richard Herring perform future shows here.”