Richard Herring: We're All Going To Die
A delirious exploration of death
‘22 fucking years’. That’s how long Richard Herring has been heading up to Edinburgh with plays and stand-up shows, and while he might come across as sounding a little begrudging that he makes this annual trek north, he clearly still loves it. And after two-and-a-bit decades of tackling weighty issues (sex, ageing, love, religion, facial hair), he’s getting stuck into the biggest one of them all: death.
Herring’s stage is deliciously decked out like a graveyard late at night, all billowing smoke and stony tributes to the deceased, and he immediately reveals his big hope for the month: that the Duke of Edinburgh and / or Nelson Mandela don’t expire before his run is over so he can continue with his opening routine.
In other comedy hands, the phrase ‘don’t speak ill of the dead’ would provide a joke or two; in Herring’s mitts, it careers off into several elongated and increasingly hysterical (yet logically argued) minutes. Add in a borderline bit about 9/11, increasingly delirious line-by-line analyses of ‘The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly’ and Hamlet’s legendary suicidal soliloquy, plus the annual dig at his former showbiz partner Stewart Lee, and you have a fantastic hour of Fringe stand-up.
One thing that’s certain with a Herring show is that it’s never just desperately cobbled together to beat a Fringe print deadline. His research and reading around a subject is clearly exhaustive, and the jokes come from this forensic exploration of a topic. Given the passion for his craft and the care with which he shapes a brand new hour every year, it would be perfectly understandable if it left him spent and frustrated. For Edinburgh audiences, a new Richard Herring show is a never-ending cause for delight.
Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 25 Aug, 8pm, £12–£14 (£11–£12).