Richard Herring is a stand-up veteran and also something of a workhorse these days. His disparate stream of podcasts and stage output in recent years has been an impressive example of productivity, not content to restrict himself to one new show every year and instead churning out hours upon hours of free entertainment for fans.
The real meat of his oeurve, though, remains his stand-up. In the past decade or so Herring has taken a unique comic look at subjects such as childhood, family, adulthood, love, death, religion and racism, among others, usually with stirring results.
This latest show, titled Happy Now?, he tackled the notion of what it means to be happy, a topic viewed through the prism of his current circumstances, as a husband and now a father. Clearly, this represents both a personal and professional shift, but it was refreshing to note that fatherhood hasn’t altered his approach to comedy much at all. Indeed, there was still much of what fans have come to expect from Herring’s shows, with the much-loved stand-up long established as a writer and performer who seeks to provoke thought as well as delivered perfectly-honed jokes.
For a comic who often excels at dealing with those big themes listed above, it was perhaps surprising to see that the idea of happiness – and the question of whether we can ever really attain true happiness – provided a less successful vehicle for him, though not an entirely unfruitful one. Herring’s commanding storytelling was to the fore, and the show was littered with routines which brought big laughs, though perhaps not as consistently or as confidently as at his absolute best.
That’s not to say that he’s gone soft, though. In among more philosophical questions were some deliciously dark riffs which show that being a dad hasn’t made him lose his edge, though it’s difficult to shake the feeling that Happy Now? doesn’t quite share the depths or highs of recent successes. Nevertheless, Herring is always an engaging and entertaining presence, and his instantly recognisable style as well as his undoubted quality as a perfomer, made this show an enjoyable experience, albeit not him at the very top of his game.