Richard Herring – What is Love Anyway? – Newcastle Stand.
When I spoke to Richard Herring last year he was in the process of writing and previewing What is Love, Anyway, his half-flippant, half-serious attempt to destroy love. With typical assurance, Richard told me that he thought this show, a follow-up of sorts to Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming, was his best yet. It’s the kind of throwaway line most comedians supply journalists with, I suppose, but he may have a point.
Of Herring’s more recent outings, What is Love, Anyway? obviously lacks the political bite of Hitler Moustache; but it’s just as teasing as his religious satire Christ on a Bike – “It’s okay to laugh at religion, but you can’t pick on a magical thing I believe in!” – and as biographical as The Headmaster’s Son.
How can a man who believes so passionately in the rational world also have the capacity for love? Isn’t love just a survival technique that aids procreation, a chemical process in the brain?
So much of this show is about Herring himself. How he thought he found love in a playground simply holding hands with a strange girl; a sweet observation in itself that elicits awkward laughter of recognition. Or how the young Richard Herring, discontent with the sleazy behaviour of his friend Tom, decided to write a private poem to establish the difference between love and lust – and show him just what he was missing from virginal life. Loneliness, namely.
Like his routine on collecting Ferrero Rochers for his girlfriend – which I thought was the weakest point in his set in terms of the pay-off – Herring hammers home the poem reading with repetition and an acute sense of timing. Stew would be proud.
Speaking of Lee, Herring’s deft impression of his former double-act partner, presumably included to plug the Fist of Fun DVD release, is tremendous. It’s just another reason to catch this show before it disappears…
The strength of Herring’s writing means the second section of What is Love, Anyway? is over before you know it. The call-backs come thick and fast, though they’re not shoe-horned into the set, and this sense of structure re-enforces your trust in Herring as the room goes quiet for the extended closing routine about his grandmother.
After facetious stories about adolescent angst, dirty Valentine’s Day cards, Ferrero Rochers, Stewart Lee and a club set routine on how Herring’s girlfriend says silly things – again, one of the few weaker moments – he offers an emotionally satisfying end to the night that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling in this review.
Whether What is Love, Anyway? is Richard Herring’s best show to date is down to personal taste, I suppose, but one thing’s for sure: I loved it.