Richard Herring is certainly not a comedian to everyone’s taste. Indeed, there seems to be no middle ground. You either love him or hate him. I tend to fall into the former category, so last night I went out to the Saltburn Community Theatre to see his latest show Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming, having seen him in Whitby last year doing Hitler Moustache.
The Community Theatre is pretty small and basic, but that, I suppose is a large part of the charm of small venues. It was the first time I’d been there. Even then it was difficult to identify quite where the show was, but I did manage to get there, parked and into a seat before the show began around eight.
Christ on a Bike was first performed around a decade ago, when Herring was nearing his 33rd birthday. Around the same age as Jesus when crucified, in fact. Although ten years older, he thought that it was time to revisit a show of which he was still proud (it was his first solo stand-up of substance).
A confirmed atheist, Herring has wondered a lot down the years he has such a particular fascination (or obsession) with Jesus. Perhaps it was being brought up in a Christian home with relatively devout parents. He talked rather touchingly about his (headmaster) father’s faith. As he has passed forty, however, this fascination has made him wonder exactly what he he achieved and to question whether his non-belief (or his father’s belief) is a sensible position.
The highlight of the show is the deconstruction of the first page of the New Testament, in the gospel of Matthew, where he points out, during a discussion of Jesus’ lineage (including such gems of names like Zoroabel and Booz of Rabach) that the very first page of the revealed word of God and the Second Covenant contains the most glaring of errors. I won’t give it away. Even worse, the gospels of Matthew and Luke can’t even agree on Jesus’ ancestry. He manages to rattle off the entire line of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew without recourse to visual aids, not a trivial task.
One of the striking things about Herring’s comedy is that, mixed in with the knob gags (of which there are plenty), is a core of considered thinking about the world around him and the people in it. It’s fairly clear that Richard sits somewhere on the liberal left, and the studied narcissism and self-flagellation is a neat device to crow-bar some of the nagging doubts that most of us have about some of these topics.
He didn’t convert me in the end. I stayed an atheist, as well as a fan.