Richard Herring is a hero to many, and yet his latest hour is clouded by an unfortunate air of desperation. It's as though the man craves our approval more than he might care to admit and isn't confident in his ability to keep us on side without an enormous, unnecessary showbiz backdrop adorning the stage, or a prop on hand from which to wring a few cheap laughs.
The absolute low point of Oh Frig, I'm 50! is when the veteran reads out a critical email from a past audience member. In mining the correspondence for errors in syntax and logic, Herring plays his established role of comedy pedant, though on this occasion he's asserting dominance over a critic and declaring himself winner of their disagreement. The message is clear: denounce Herring and he will publicly shame you to the delight of a loyal audience. For a man who professes to be content in middle age, this segment of the show reeks of insecurity.
Beneath the gimmicks and ill-advised set pieces, however, Herring is still Herring, one of the sharpest and most prolific talents on the circuit today. The account of his body's natural deterioration is disarmingly honest, crass observations substantiated by beautifully crafted phrases. A discussion of children's TV programming, meanwhile, demonstrates his knack for finding the absurd in the most banal of subjects. Thirty years into his standup career, Herring can be a towering presence, but only, it seems, intermittently.