Herring’s new comedy muse is working well for him
Herring’s got a baby and he can’t help but talk about it – or more to the point, how it’s changed his life. Is he happier? Has he “lost his edge”?
Both those two points are debatable. His permanently heightened self-consciousness appears to prevent him from ever being truly happy, he says, spoiling everything (and I mean everything); and on the second point, I don’t think he’s ever had that kind of “edge” anyway, he’s never been the tortured soul type. But what having a child has evidently done for Herring is give him a new vehicle for his over-active, over-anxious mind. Herring has been mining this particular aspect of his personality for years – over-thinking, then over-sharing – and it’s hardly surprising that it’s been sent into overdrive by having a new-born baby to keep alive.
In which case, fatherhood is probably good for Herring’s comedy, not erosive. It plays into his hands. This new touring show, “Happy Now?”, backs this up. It presents Herring as a comic on good form, energised by his new muse. He revels in making deliciously dark jokes about being a bad parent, and reveals his concerns at coming to parenthood late in life – as his own father did. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments such as a few digs at his old comedy cohort Stewart Lee and a comment about Princess Anne that is tantamount to treason.
There’s a lot of comedic low-hanging fruit when it comes to parenthood – kids say the funniest things, everything sounding like a double entendre – and Herring deftly dodges that. He also slips in a few sincere moments about the sheer joy of being a father – just enough to ground the show, not enough to make it cloying. In those senses, this is a finely judged show. Having said that, his “nursery rhymes are really absurd” routine seems a bit easy, and his testing out on us of what makes baby Phoebe laugh is an original idea, but it doesn’t quite work.
Compared to previous shows it feels more like a series of routines than a fully formed whole, too scattergun to ever feel really coherent as, say, Headmaster’s Son or Hitler Moustache. It’s also a shame that the second half was given over to mainly newish material. It seems this is completely acceptable in comedy to have large sections of undercooked routines when people are paying full price, it seems the horse has bolted on this one so I won’t complain too much.
The second half did at least have a routine about a humble doormat that his in-laws have – and it’s a classic of the Herring “pedantically pick something apart” genre. Bottom line, this is yet another strong solo show by Herring. Chalk it up.
Review by Paul Fleckney