informed edinburgh review of COAB

Fringe Review: Richard Herring – Christ on a Bike
Festivals, Review, What's On — By Jodi Mullen on August 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Assembly Ballroom, George Street until 30 August, 9.45pm

After years of relative obscurity, Richard Herring’s star seems finally to be on the rise. The last year has seen the Yorkshire-born comedian in and out of the papers thanks to his controversial 2009 show Hitler Moustache, while his collaborations with broadcaster Andrew Collins have topped the iTunes podcast chart and secured a formidable following on BBC 6 Music. After more than a decade and a half in the comedy business, Herring’s first-ever appearance on BBC panel show Have I Got News For You seemed to herald his arrival in the big time.

Richard Herring in 2009 hit Hitler Moustache

With his recent success in mind, it’s easy to accuse Richard Herring of complacency by choosing to retread past glories with a show that is essentially a decade old. Back in 2001, when Christ on a Bike first debuted, Herring had recently turned 33, the same age as Jesus when he died. The show was a springboard for the comedian to find his own voice with an irreverent satire of the life of Christ, comparing his own life to date with that of the Messiah with Python-esque tongue-in-cheek humour.

Nine years on and Christ on a Bike has been resurrected almost unchanged, a Messianic parallel of comedic proportions. This time the hook is that Richard Herring has just turned 43 and now feels more at ease comparing his achievements to those of Jesus. But if Herring has changed in the last ten year, the show has not. The 2010 show is virtually unaltered from the 2001 version, entire sections lifted verbatim from the original script. There’s a sense that Herring is perhaps over-familiar with the material; his delivery seems off in places and punch-lines are muted. It’s not so much that the gags feel stilted as it is the unmistakable impression that we’ve heard this all before.

Still, occasional moments of brilliance cut through the fog of déjà-vu. The extended “Abraham begat” routine is genuinely mesmerising, a masterclass in satire and comic timing combined with a truly impressive feat of memory. It’s perverse that a routine based on recitation of biblical scripture should draw the biggest laughs of the night but Richard Herring has always been at his best when transubstantiating the ordinary into the absurd.

Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming then, is a brief pause to take stock of the last ten years, both for Edinburgh audiences and for Herring himself. With the promise of further greatness to come, it’s easy to forgive him a spot of self-indulgence in 2010.

3 Stars