COMEDY REVIEW: Richard Herring @ ARC, Stockton (24.05.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Richard Herring brought his latest stand-up show, Can I Have My Ball Back?, to the ARC in Stockton-on-Tees on Friday night. Competing with Take That, who were performing just down the road at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, Herring kicked off the evening with a story about the hotel receptionist who asked if he was in town for the “big concert.” With typical Herring wit, he quipped, “Word must be getting around that I am playing here.”

Known for his incisive wit and willingness to tackle difficult subjects, Herring turned his personal experience with testicular cancer into a narrative that balanced humour with heartfelt reflection. The show was at its strongest when Herring delved into the absurdities of his medical journey. His comparison of NHS check-ups to a Sainsbury’s checkout, culminating in the discovery of “an unexpected item in the bagging area,” was a standout moment, eliciting hearty laughter from the audience. This kind of relatable, observational humour is where Herring excels, using everyday experiences to ground his more outlandish jokes.

Yet, Can I Have My Ball Back? was not merely a series of punchlines. Herring did not shy away from the emotional gravity of his situation, frequently referencing his fears of leaving behind his young children and wife. Particularly touching were his anecdotes about his daughter’s drawings, which humorously depicted him in perilous situations, including falling into a pit of lava with a crocodile at the bottom. These moments added a layer of poignancy to the performance, reminding the audience of the real stakes behind the comedy.

However, not all aspects of the show landed perfectly. Herring’s venture into ventriloquism, featuring a dummy representing his removed testicle named Right Bollock, was a bold attempt at diversifying his act. Unfortunately, this segment did not resonate as well with the audience, coming off as more of a novelty than a seamless part of the routine. It was an interesting experiment, though it felt somewhat disjointed from the rest of his material.

Overall, Herring’s Can I Have My Ball Back? was a compelling mix of comedy and sincerity. His ability to find the funny side in personal adversity is commendable, and the show successfully conveyed a message of resilience without falling into sentimentality. For those familiar with Herring’s work, this performance reaffirmed his status as a comedian unafraid to explore the intersections of life’s humour and hardships. It was an evening that left the audience with plenty to think about, as well as a fair share of laughs.

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