Richard Herring

The Bike Project: Jokes and Spokes


It’s my brother who tells us that The Bike Project’s Jokes and Spokes annual charity comedy night is streaming live. Like many others, our family is spread out around the country and, with Scotland, England and Wales all following different lockdown timetables, who knows how long it’ll be before we can see each other again? So he suggests we ‘attend’ this event together, and we (and my parents) are more than happy to comply.

We know it’s bound to a be a little odd. Stand ups need their live audiences more than other performers (theatre link-ups aren’t as good as the real thing, but they can still be wonderful); as an audience member, I need the buzz of shared laughter too, the sense of complicity that comes from sitting in a darkened room, ideally being challenged and surprised. But still. That’s not available, and we all have to adapt.

And The Bike Project is a very worthwhile cause: all money raised goes towards refurbishing old bicycles and giving them to refugees. I love this: ethical, environmental, achievable and genuinely useful.

Jen Brister compères, and she’s good at it: briskly funny, with a warm and generous manner. She puts us at our ease, and we settle in.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag, quality wise. To be fair, not only are the comedians dealing with an unfriendly format, they’re also out of practice, and haven’t had much chance to hone their work.

Still, Suzi Ruffell gets us off to a good start. She’s so twinkly and charming, it almost doesn’t matter if she’s telling jokes or not, but she is, and they’re funny – so that’s good. True, we’ve all seem some of this material before, but that’s inevitable to some extent, and there’s new stuff in there too.

I’m a little disappointed with Andy Zaltzman – whose comedy I usually like – because he’s reading from a script, so there’s no eye contact at all. Also, he reads so quickly that I miss a lot of it. If we were in the same room, he’d be able to gauge that better, I guess, and slow himself down. I can’t really review the content, because I didn’t catch it. A real shame.

Next up is Evelyn Mok. I haven’t seen her before and I want to cut her some slack because lockdown is hard on all of us, and I know she’s appearing for free (like all the comics here). But she doesn’t seem to have any material at all, not even a basic bit of WIP, and she’s just chatting to the ‘front row’ audience members who are visible on our screens. ‘This is like being at somebody else’s family get together,’ my brother messages our group. There are some rare raconteurs who can just shoot the breeze and keep us entertained. But Evelyn Mok doesn’t do it for me tonight. If I get the chance to see her live, I’ll take it; I’d like to know what she’s like in a more natural environment.

Although I’ve never seen Athena Kugblenu, I’m primed to like her because I listen to The Guilty Feminist and I know her well from that. She doesn’t disappoint. Yes, it’s a low energy performance, but she’s cheery and engaged, and she makes us laugh. Oddly, it’s her stuff about how difficult it is to do comedy online that really hits the mark. It’s a relief to mock the elephant in the Zoom.

We’re all big fans of Richard Herring in our family, and he’s his usual cheeky, ramshackle self. But, although he’s set himself the laudable challenge of not performing any of his pre-lockdown material again, we’ve still all heard this set before. It’s not his fault, though, that we listen to all of his podcasts and read his blog; we’re bound to encounter his ideas along the way. Things pick up when he introduces his ventriloquist dummy, Ally, and embarks on a ridiculous improvisation.

Kemah Bob gives us the most honed performance of the night. She seems very comfortable performing online, and she establishes an easy intimacy. This is clearly well practised material, but it’s new to us, and we’re laughing out loud most of the time.

Last but not least is headliner Frankie Boyle. He’s great: his tone is very natural, and he’s as acerbic and cantankerous as you’d expect. This is classic Frankie, albeit with the invective dialled down a notch.

The show ends and our group call begins. It’s been great, we all agree: three households ‘meeting’ remotely to share an experience. Not as good, nowhere near as good, as going out together would be. But a fair compromise in a compromised world. And charitable to boot.

3.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Richard Herring: RHLSTP


The Stand’s New Town Theatre (Grand Hall), Edinburgh

Let’s face it, it’s a pretty poor Fringe without some Richard Herring in it. His was the first show I saw on my first ever visit to the Fringe (Christ On a Bike; The Second Coming) and I’ve been a firm fan ever since. Okay, so this year, he hasn’t brought a new comedy show to Edinburgh, but he is doing daily recordings for his podcast, RHLSTP – and, as luck would have it, he’s talking to one of B&B’s friends, Malawian comedian, Daliso Chaponda. Win win.

RHLSTP is a regular thing in our lives these days, and it’s fascinating to watch a recording and know that we’ll be listening back to it on our phones in a day or so. The New Town Theatre is rammed today. (The last act we caught here? Er… Jeremy Corbyn.) It’s a Saturday and, come to think of it, we’ve never seen the Fringe quite as busy as it is right now. The streets are so bustling, it’s hard even getting to the venue.

A somewhat slimmer Richard Herring resides on an ornate wooden throne, fitting for the self-styled ‘King of the Fringe.’ First up is comedian Sunil Patel, a charming and laid back chap, whose show, White Knight (he says he regrets that title), is showing daily at 2.30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker). He looks somewhat nonplussed by his Emergency Question. What would it take to persuade him to fellate the actor Keith Allen? Hmm. Answer: A trip to Japan. Okay.

But its Daliso we’re really here to see, particularly after catching his fascinating and challenging show Blah Blah Blacklist at The Teviot Wine Bar (6.30pm daily). Here’s a link to our earlier review:

As RHLSTP is a podcast featuring interviews with (mostly) comedians, there are different interviewees every day, so be sure to check the schedule carefully before booking. Daliso makes a perfect match for Richard’s easygoing interviewing technique, delving into his influences and, I’m sure, winning over a lot of new fans in the process. His best Emergency Question? What artefact from any museum would he like to keep? Daliso chooses the Liverpool Museum of Slavery and opts for…  a Ku Klux Klan uniform. Unexpected, to say the very least. To find out why, you’ll have to listen when the podcast…

So, go catch RHLSTP. You’ll have a whale of a time. And it’s funnier than Mr Corbyn.

4.5 stars

Philip Caveney

Edfest Bouquets 2017


It was another fantastic three weeks at the Fringe for us. We crammed in as many shows as we possibly could – and still barely managed to scratch the surface. Here’s our pick of the best we saw this year. Congratulations to everyone mentioned.


Seagulls – Volcano Theatre

Peer Gynt – Gruffdog Theatre

The Power Behind the Crone – Alison Skilbeck

Safe Place – Clara Glynn

Pike Street – Nilaja Sun



The Darkness of Robins – John Robins

Kinabalu – Phil Wang

Dominant – John Robertson

Mistress & Misfit – Shappi Khorsandi

Oh Frig, I’m 50! – Richard Herring


Story Telling

One Seventeen – Sarah Kendall

These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone – Will Greenway

The Man on the Moor – Max Dickins

Eggsistentialism – Joanne Ryan

Blank Tiles – Dylan Cole


Special Mentions

The Toxic Avenger: The Musical – Aria Entertainment & Flying Music

Up Close – Chris Dugdale

The Cat Man Curse – Pelican Theatre

Cathy – Cardboard Citizen Theatre

Well Meaning, but Right Leaning – Geoff Norcott

Stand Up for Shelter


Underbelly, George Square

The Udderbelly is packed with eager comedy fans who’ve all turned out to support a very worthy cause. MC Suzi Ruffell tells us we’ve already raised over four grand for Shelter just by buying tickets, so we can feel good about ourselves as we laugh. In addition, showcase events like these are a great way of sampling a varied selection of comedians. Because of their brief time allocation, we’re usually left wanting more – but luckily, that’s easily fixed as most of them have their own shows at the Fringe. Ruffell is a lively MC, who communicates well with the audience and handles the inevitable late arrivals with aplomb – then, without further ado she introduces the first act.

We’ve actually seen Richard Herring’s excellent Edinburgh show, Oh Frig, I’m 50!, twice already (we took my parents to his first preview, then went again for reviewing purposes a few nights later), so we’re expecting to find this short set a little over-familiar. Luckily for us, he delivers different material here, and he’s as hilarious, irreverent and charming as ever. A great way to start the show.

We’ve heard Desiree Burch on the fabulous Guilty Feminist podcast, and it’s lovely to finally see her live. As the title of her Fringe show, Unfuckable, suggests, she’s not an act for the prudish: she’s rude and funny, with charisma-aplenty. Good stuff.

Sara Pascoe is of course, another Fringe stalwart. Here she talks mostly about Marks and Spencer knickers and the time when she had the misfortune to be wearing the same ones as her ex’s mother. Her quirky, intelligent take on the world is as evident here as always, and she’s as marvellous as you’d expect.

We’re delighted to see our friend Daliso Chaponda  doing so well since his BGT appearance earlier this year – he’s finally getting the attention he deserves. He absolutely smashes this gig, drawing actual applause from the crowd for gag after gag. He’s pretty hard-hitting, and doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter (here he focuses on recent news stories about public figures using ‘the N word’ and how context changes everything) but he’s so charming and affable that it’s hard to imagine he could ever offend. It’s a shame he’s been given such a short slot, as the audience is clearly up for a lot more. He’s embarking on a tour early next year, and it’s definitely going to be worth checking him out.

Dan Antopolski treats us to some excerpts from a 50 Shades of Grey type novel that he’s working on. As you might expect, this is salacious stuff, made ridiculous by its over-attention to detail. It’s slyly funny and makes us giggle.

James Acaster ambles out, and makes amiable chit-chat for a few minutes. The conceit here is that he hasn’t bothered preparing, and he keeps looking at his watch, giving us a running countdown until his time is up. It’s a nice idea, and works well for him, perfectly suiting his comedic persona. Even the silences and sighs are funny; he has us all on side.

It’s left to Ed Byrne to close out the show in his own inimitable style. He tells us he only found out about this gig ten minutes before he was due on stage and has run all the way here, but since he has a little longer to stretch out than the earlier acts, he connects really successfully with the audience and his stories about the trials of  fatherhood and his planned vasectomy have us all laughing our socks off. It’s a satisfying end to proceedings, though inevitably it’s overrun and we have to leg it to our next gig.

It is a real treat to see so many great comedians on one bill – and Shelter really is an important cause. Recent news stories about increasing levels of homelessness in Britain (it’s set to double by 2041 according to some reports) show that this is actually no laughing matter. You can donate here:

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield & Philip Caveney

Richard Herring: Oh Frig, I’m 50!



Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

You don’t have to spend long looking through Bouquets & Brickbats reviews to realise that we are Richard Herring fans. We’re delighted that he’s returned to the Fringe this year; we felt his absence in 2015 and 2016. And we’re even more delighted to see the huge queue forming around the Pleasance Courtyard and to hear that his show has sold out tonight: if he does well, surely he’s more likely to come back again next time?

Oh Frig, I’m 50! is a call-back to his 2007 show, Oh Fuck, I’m 40! Unsurprisingly, it focuses on the differences ten years have wrought: the physical ignominy of aging, and the changes to his personal life that have occurred in the last decade. From footloose to family-man, from hot-head to… slightly less hot-head, this is an honest and sometimes brutal account of what it means to grow older.

As always, Herring is at his best when engaged in pedantic deconstruction: here, he homes in on an email and a children’s game, neither of which sound like ripe topics for comedy, but both are mined for maximum laughs, and the audience is clearly appreciative of this obsession with the minutiae. Maybe there isn’t as strong a theme as there was in Christ on a Bike or Hitler Moustache, but it’s a fine show nevertheless, performed with absolute authority by an assured and confident comedian who knows that what he’s got is good.

Definitely, as always, this is worth trying to see. Although I do hope it’s sold out, and that you have to wait for it to go on tour.

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Richard Herring: Happy Now?



Quay Theatre, Lowry, Salford

Any fears that Richard Herring’s newfound domesticity might have blunted his comic edge are soon allayed as he strides out on stage and takes command of the packed and very enthusiastic audience at the Quay Theatre. This new show is distilled from the various things that have happened to him since Lord of the Dance Settee and it’s clearly been a tumultuous time. I don’t know quite how he does it, but Happy Now? takes a look at a whole series of common experiences and gives them that distinctive edge. His description of his new daughter arriving screaming from his wife’s vagina is quite frankly hilarious and his contemplation of how it would be if you were introduced to somebody at a party in similar circumstances is even funnier. Laugh? I nearly wet myself.

Yes, of course there’s a vein of sentimentality here, it would be odd if there wasn’t but he continually undercuts that to remind us that comedy can be mined from the most unexpected places. A routine where he’s left in charge of his baby daughter and begins to imagine the worst things that could possibly happen to her is a great example of this – we’re laughing uncontrollably whilst telling yourself you shouldn’t really be finding this funny at all.

His interpretation of the popular nursery rhyme about five little monkeys jumping on a bed was a high spot for me, as he imagines the simian-doctor repeatedly visiting the scene of yet another monkey mortality and asking, ‘you remember what I told you yesterday? About no more monkeys jumping on the bed?’

It’s gratifying to see so many people turning out for one of the hardest working and original comedians currently treading the boards. Happy Now? Is midway through a nationwide tour. He’s at the Epstein theatre in Liverpool tonight (20th Feb) and there’s a whole host of venues to follow through March and April, one of which must surely be somewhere near you. If you can get hold of a ticket, (and hurry, most venues are close to sold out) do so.

You will laugh long and you will laugh hard. In these troubled times that’s something to be cherished.

5 stars


Richard Herring – Interview

Richard Herring is clearly in a good mood. He’s well into his nationwide tour of Happy Now? and in a couple of hours is due to play the sold out Quay theatre at Salford’s Lowry. With all that going on, he’s nevertheless agreed to put aside twenty minutes or so to talk to us. The setting is his less than salubrious dressing room, somewhere behind the stage and as we set up our little recorder he’s pleasant and relaxed.

We begin with a jokey question, one that will be familiar to followers of his RHLSTP podcasts: where does he get all his crazy ideas?

‘I don’t really know,’ he admits. ‘I suppose a lot comes from my own experience, true stories that I’ve ‘found the funny’ in. It comes from the state of mind where I question things too much. It’s pedantry, really. Not good for life but good for comedy.’

So does he see himself more as a raconteur than as a man who tells jokes?

‘The show is certainly becoming more story-based. It’s probably because of the blog.’

As his followers will know, Herring writes a daily blog and never misses, even when his life is at its most frantic. It makes for interesting and informative reading about the day-to-day experiences of one of the country’s finest comics. I ask him if there’s a compulsive-obsessive side to his personality. There’s surely no other comedian who goes to such lengths to document every aspect of his life.

‘Yes, definitely. You’ve got to be careful when you talk about these things, because there are people with much more serious compulsive-obsessive disorders but there is an element of that in me. There have been times when I’ve thought about giving up the blog, when I’ve not been enjoying it so much but somehow I can never bring myself to do it, and it is such a fertile place for finding new material. Mind you, I’m getting better. The other day I broke the Ferrero Rocher thing…’

This is a reference to the fact that every Valentine’s day for the past nine years, Herring has bought the infamous chocolates for his wife, beginning with one and doubling the amount purchased each year, with the intention of building a huge pyramid of the things. This year he uncharacteristically forgot. Not that it mattered too much. ‘She doesn’t even like Ferraro Rocher that much,’ he admits. ‘She said she’d prefer a new bag.’

It’s been a year of huge changes for Richard. He’s become a parent, and for the first time in years he didn’t go to the Edinburgh Festival but what, we wonder has been the biggest change for him personally?

‘Well, certainly becoming a father has been the biggest change – and this show is all about whether I have finally found contentment and peace, which I think I have, to an extent. I think I’ve found contentment now, that I’m happy with my place in comedy and where I am. Ten years ago, I’d have been wanting more fame, but I’ve realised that where I am now is more rewarding, more creative and importantly, more anonymous. I can go to the park with my child and not be pestered by the paps, unlike say David Mitchell and Victoria Coren, who seem to be endlessly bothered by them.’

Any regrets about not doing Edinburgh?

‘No. I actually enjoyed not going, not losing money, not having all the pressure of doing it. I realised that I’d actually been quite unhappy doing it for much of the time. Last year really wasn’t a happy experience.’

He’s referring to the double whammy of the 2014 fringe where he had two shows – Lord of the Dance Settee and a semi-serious play, I Killed Rasputin. We saw and enjoyed them both, but clearly not enough people did. Herring had anticipated losing twenty thousand pounds (everyone loses money at Edinburgh) but in the event, he actually lost considerably more. Little wonder that he decided that a series of gigs in London’s Leicester Square Theatre – where he recreated all twelve of his Edinburgh shows over one month, was a more viable alternative and one that would allow him to stay closer to home.

People say that the best humour comes from anxiety. Can real comedy come from a place of contentment?

‘I think comedy is essentially laughter in the face of horrible things, which is why I will do comedy about the worst parts of life. It’s a way of confronting those things and thereby overcoming them. But parenthood comes with its own particular set of anxieties and I exploit those to the full in the new show.’

Our last query comes courtesy of our twelve year old niece, Esme, who has provided us with an ‘emergency question’ . So we ask it.

‘If you had to choose, would you rather be a unicorn or a vampire?’

Herring laughs. ‘That’s a very good question, ‘ he says. ‘I would definitely be a vampire. It’s sexier. A unicorn is a kind of sexless thing.’ He grins. ‘I know vampires are not very nice, but I’d say they have a more exciting life.’

Philip Caveney and Susan Singfield



Lou Sanders: Excuse Me, You’re Sitting On My Penis Again



Laughing Horse@City Cafe, Edinburgh

It’s thanks to Richard Herring that we’re here. We heard his RHLSTP (Ruh-Huh-Luh-Stuh-Puh!) interview with Lou Sanders, and rather liked the sound of her. So we sought out her show in Edinburgh, and we’re very glad we did.

This is a Free Fringe event, and the venue’s a bit on the rough and ready side – a hot and sweaty cellar room, with fold-up chairs and no raking – but we’ve got seats at the front and we’re comfortable enough. And Sanders is every bit as daft and energetic as the podcast suggested.

The show’s premise is typically odd: Sanders decides to apply to Eton. Why not? Everybody knows that Eton alumni are hugely successful. Why shouldn’t a grown woman without access to the fees apply to an elite boys’ school? What could possibly go wrong?

Sanders is a charming performer. The show is ridiculous – in a delightful way. There are masks, there are audio clips, and there’s a lot of silliness – but, actually, there are serious points being made here too. Why is privilege only conferred on to a few? Why do the rest of us accept we can’t have what they’ve got?

So if you’re at a loose end at 5.30pm, and find yourself in the Old Town – this one’s definitely worth queuing for.

4 stars

Susan Singfield

Richard Herring – An Appreciation



We’re in Edinburgh and we’ve just been to an official launch party at the Assembly Rooms and in just two days, Ed Fest 2015 kicks off in earnest. For us, it’s always one of the most exciting, one of the most essential times of the year and yet here at Bouquets and Brickbats, we are unable to shake off the profound sense that something is missing; because this is the first year in absolutely ages that Richard Herring isn’t doing the Edinburgh Festival.

Let me explain. I am a relative latecomer to the fringe. The very first year I came to it (2010), pretty much the first thing Susan, my daughter Grace and I saw was Christ on A Bike: The Second Coming, Herring’s scurrilous take on the bible and the teachings of the Messiah. To say we loved the show would be an understatement. Indeed, I laughed so much I was in danger of giving myself a hernia.

Every year after that, our first task on arriving in Edinburgh was to book to see whatever Herring’s current show happened to be. Last year, we had a double delight. Not only was he performing Lord Of The Dance Settee, he had also written and produced a play, I Killed Rasputin, a surprisingly serious but rather enjoyable historical piece that was clearly a result of his obsession with ‘Russia’s famous love machine.’ We enjoyed and reviewed both shows, but Herring’s daily blog later revealed that he’d actually lost a lot of money at the festival. Of course, everyone loses money at Edinburgh, but this was a major loss– something like fifty grand – and he was thinking very seriously about not turning up the following year. We were pretty dubious about this claim. After all, Herring was the ‘King of the Fringe.’ Of course he’d be there. He had to be.

But matters were compounded when earlier this year Herring’s wife, children’s author Catie Wilkins gave birth to the couple’s first child and Herring found himself reluctant to be too far away from his daughter. So this year, instead of coming to Edinburgh, he’s decided to perform all twelve of his Edinburgh shows – plus a brand new one – over six weekends at the Leicester Square Theatre. It’s a positively Herculean task and one that is entirely typical of the man who must have a valid claim to being the ‘hardest working comedian in history.’

So, if you’re in London and you’re available to see some (or indeed all) of his Leicester Square shows, do go along and see what he has to offer. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll witness a breadth of invention that will stagger you. Meanwhile, in the vibrant buzz of Ed Fest, in the wonderful chaos that produces more than 3000 new shows every day, there will still be an empty stage that somehow will always belong to Richard Herring.

And there will remain the hope that maybe next year… if we cross our fingers and wish as hard as we can… he’ll return. We’ll catch up with him next at Manchester’s Lowry Theatre in February 2016. Can’t wait.

Philip Caveney

Richard Herring – Lord of the Dance Settee



Frog and Bucket, Manchester

The UK’s hardest-working comedian brought his Edinburgh Festival show to a sold-out Frog and Bucket, bringing much-needed laughter on a grim and rainy Wednesday night in October. As ever, when you see a show in a different venue, there are pluses and minuses.

The pluses were evident from the word go. Herring was able to extend the material over a more leisurely ninety minutes, instead of the brisk one-hour slots that are the Edinburgh norm, and it was also clear that he’d honed and polished the material since August, extracting every ounce of humour from it. His unique, hectoring style is a joy to behold, finding laughs in the most unlikely places and time and again, he strays perilously close to the indefensible, only to dance nimbly away, defusing the whole thing with a barrage of carefully chosen invective. Laugh and learn folks, laugh and learn. At times, the packed audience was near to hysteria.

The minuses were mostly imposed on Herring by circumstances beyond his control. He couldn’t, for instance, recreate the ingenious circular narrative of the original shows, mostly because of the confines of the club’s tiny stage and the fact that the titular settee (freshly sourced for each location, apparently) looked as though it would have resulted in broken limbs if he’d tried to do what he did in Edinburgh. But ultimately, it didn’t matter. A friend at our table judged this to be one of the best comedy shows he’d ever seen and the iconic name of Daniel Kitson was mentioned as a suitable comparison. This was also an opportunity to get hold of the (reasonably priced and much-longed for) Fist of Fun DVDs. There are still some seats available for later in the tour (Crewe in particular, judging by an off-the-cuff remark that Herring made onstage) so if you have the chance to catch a show, then I would strongly advise you to take it.

Laughter is in perilously short supply these days and this is comedy gold.

4.7 stars

Philip Caveney

I Killed Rasputin



Assembly, George Square Theatre, Edinburgh

As both a theatre-lover and a Richard Herring fan, it was obvious that I would attend this show. Less obvious was what I should expect. I know that Herring has written plays before, but I haven’t seen them. The poster looks rather solemn and serious; would the performance eschew all humour to focus on the history?

Of course not. While this piece is certainly informative, it’s entertaining too (“laughing and learning, folks”), and the ridiculousness of the story the world was supposed to swallow is cleverly exposed.

The casting is audacious, with Nichola McAuliffe in the lead role of Prince Felix Yusupov, playing up his notorious gender-bending reputation. McAuliffe is magnificent and Eileen Nicholas, as his arch wife, Irina, is the perfect foil, these two ‘older’ women easily commanding the stage. (Pay attention, Hollywood! Pay attention, BBC! Pay attention, everyone! Women who are over fifty can be wonderful. Write more parts for them!) In fact, the sheer brilliance of these two actors creates what, for me, is the only problem with the play: their combined charisma and charm means that they steal the show, and so the enigmatic Rasputin (Justin Edwards), appearing as a ghost to torment Yusupov, perhaps fails to make as much impact as he needs to, and it is, at times, hard to see how the Russian aristocracy could have been so beguiled by this relatively ordinary man. However, this is a minor quibble – and there’s plenty to relish in the performance, not least the multi-role playing and clever direction.

Overall, the play works very well, combining artful exposition with delightfully silly humour, and really helps to illuminate this fascinating moment in history. 

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield