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Oh Frig I’m 50: Richard Herring is wiser whether he likes it or not

Review: Richard Herring at Royal Theatre, Northampton

Richard Herring kicked off the current leg of his Oh Frig I’m 50 tour in the Royal Theatre, Northampton with a warm and funny show about the humiliation of aging.

Herring – who you may know best from This Morning with Richard Not Judy back in the 90s – created a show about hitting 40 ten years ago and in many ways his current offering is describing how the aging process since then saved him from the kidult excesses of his younger self.

He still appears as the naughty boy with a good heart, but he has another decade of his life to be appalled by with the over-sharing outrage of a defeated nine-year-old. This makes him a wiser character whether he likes it or not.

Appropriately enough given the reflective theme the callbacks are some of the best moments and demonstrated that despite the chaotic swinging of the Herring wrecking ball towards the boundaries of taste and acceptability, there was an experienced craftsman at the controls.

He creates a character exhibiting surreal and infantile logic while trying to reassemble a world that got deconstructed when it somehow came apart in his hands.

It is full of the energy of clowning comedy but also offers up something for us to take away and think about: “I’m not important and that’s ok.”

Sex, terrorism and the postal service are among the topics discussed. There is plenty about parenthood now he has two young children although as a 49-year-old who was very emotionally invested I felt 20 years older than him at that point in the show.

The audience was probably evenly dividedly between older and younger fans which tells an interesting story about Herring.

Despite being perceived as less successful than his former comedy partner Stewart Lee who – it has got to be said – sold out two nights in the larger Derngate auditorium, Herring has built a loyal and youthful following through podcasts and YouTube broadcasts.

In particular his hour long Richard Herring Live from Leicester Square Theatre interviews have attracted hundreds of thousands of views and are well worth investigating.

Herring only made one reference to Lee, mentioning that he had tried to persuade his wife they should name their daughter Leanne (say the full name out loud), but he often takes on the role of the spurned partner in their narrative inviting unfavourable comparison with Lee’s relative success.

He deserves a lot of credit however for having established such an effective internet following that he can pull a decent crowd together in the real world – not something many internet sensations can do. Lee and Herring went their different ways and they really were different. Lee’s argument is that they cannot be the same act they were back in the day, but back in the day he was in many ways the older brother trying to shake-off the pomposity pricking idiocy of his younger brother. Their occasional banter about not being a double-act is like a continuation of their double act. Every time Lee dismisses the idea he becomes further mired in it. That situation is cross-platform funny and I’d like to believe it is their knowing little gift to each other.

Herring meanwhile, by offering a humble acceptance that a man is always a boy inside, has matured into a rather charming rascal who is still perfectly capable of putting a smile on your face.

Details of future shows here

Royal and Derngate shows here

NQ To-Do List here

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