What do 70s porn, David Hasselhoff and televised roulette have in common?
They’re all among the subjects discussed in the opening installment of comedian Richard Herring’s new standup and sketch show, As It Occurs To Me. Fed up of bureaucracy and censorship within the BBC, Herring has taken his newest project to the Internet, releasing it as a free weekly podcast, which he hopes to finance with the money he makes from the live recordings.
The premise, such as it is, is simple; each week, Herring will write and perform comedy based on things that have happened to him in the past seven days, or ideas that he has had (hence the title).
Giving him someone to play off against on stage are Danny Wallace’s stunt double Dan Tetsell, and the gorgeous Emma Kennedy, star of 90s ITV sci-fi sketch show Planet Mirth (Am I really the only one who remembers this?) and long-time collaborator on many of Herring’s projects. The trio last worked together on Herring’s Radio 2 show That Was Then, This Is Now, and clearly share an excellent rapport, something which comes across in waves on stage.
There are a lot of comparisons to be drawn between As It Occurs To Me (or, as the cool kids are calling it, AIOTM) and TWTTIN, and this is no bad thing. Richard’s stand-up observations are used as the jumping off point for a series of delightfully absurd sketches, which take the original premise and move it as far along into the absurd as it will comfortably go, and then just a few inches more.
In one memorable scene, a news article about unused names for Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs quickly transforms into Herring interviewing two of the ‘rejected’ dwarfs, and a gleefully crude joke about Walt Disney, which I won’t spoil here.
Yes, much like Herring’s regular stand-up shows, As It Occurs To Me is not for the easily offended. The podcast is peppered with swearing, and topics such as the recent Anton Du Beke news story are approached in the comic’s typical clever but near-the-knuckle fashion.
Due to the live, unedited and freshly written nature of the material, there are occasional moments that don’t work so well, such as a digression in which Herring tries to involve the audience, and some of the sketches would almost certainly have been trimmed down for radio, a fact the comic freely admits during the show.
And yet, this is all part of this podcast’s charm. Provided you’re not easily offended, there’s a lot to love here; Richard’s slightly surreal, cynical and charmingly self-deprecating style of comedy shines through even during the few weaker moments, and Tetsell and Kennedy provide worthy foils for his still slightly boyish on-stage persona.
Anyone who’s found themselves disliking Herring’s material in the past should probably skip this – it’s a delightful more-of-the-same rather than a reinvention – but I urge everyone else to give it a try and, if you enjoy it, consideri coming along to one of the recordings at London’s Leicester Square Theatre, so that it’ll prove financially viable to move beyond the initial run of ten shows.
It’s a brave experiment and, based on the evidence so far, one that deserves every success.
As It Occurs To Me can be downloaded via iTunes or the British Comedy Guide website (www.comedy.org.uk/podcasts). Recordings take place every Monday evening at 8pm, tickets cost £10 and can be purchased via www.leicestersquaretheatre.com.