Does life begin at 50? Celebrated stand-up Richard Herring has been pondering this while on tour with his latest show, Oh Frig I’m 50, which ended with this date at Warwick Arts Centre. A sequel of sorts to his show titled Oh Fuck I’m 40, this new offering detailed how the biggest events during the past decade or so have shaped his life now, with the most momentous changes including him getting married and starting a family.
It’s a commonly held view in certain circles that those things can often lead to diminishing returns in the quality of a comic’s output, and while that may have been true in some examples Herring’s recent work has long proved its folly. The first half here was slightly more uneven, with keen observational material not always landing, but glimpses of his recognisable style, though a stronger second half of the show really took proceedings to a higher level.
A routine detailing an altercation with a postman was a particular highlight, and Herring wonderfully contrasted this with another incident – from 10 years ago – which showed just how far apart he is from his younger self. His knack for building layers of jokes and heightening the absurdity of a situation have remained hallmarks of his stand-up which have made his very best work stand out from other acts on the circuit. When he really hits on a fertile furrow, there’s a rare intensity to his stage persona which fully commits to the bit and elevates the humour further. This set-piece managed to do it, but plenty of other sections didn’t probe as far, or opted for safer jokes. Arguably, Herring was at his best when laying his flaws bare; something which the postman routine achieved superbly.
If Oh Frig I’m 50 suffered due to not being as dense or invigorating as some of his more recent shows – the superlative Hitler Moustache, What Is Love Anyway? and We’re All Going to Die among them – there was still a lot to enjoy, and Herring also appeared to be revelling in its looseness, while proving that marriage and fatherhood haven’t blunted his often edgy comedy. He’s still a force of nature on stage, even after half a century.