“Where is the virtue in fidelity,” ponders Richard Herring, “when there is no one trying to sleep with you?”
That seems like a cynical question to ask, rhetorical and witty as it is, for a man who’s happily married with a toddler, and “a brand new piece of sexcrement” on the way. Self-incriminating even. It soon becomes apparent however, that these questions form a necessary comparison between the Herring of today and that of ten years ago, around which the show pivots.
Oh Frig, I’m 50! is the second decennial census of his life after 2007’s Oh F*ck, I’m 40! It finds Herring as a more reflective and infinitely less hedonistic version of his former self, although he speculates this may be as much down to the inevitable degradation of his body and depletion in his energy reservoir rather than the settling of his soul. He’s in jovial, relaxed mood, completely in charge of his material. He seems as much amused by the changes in his life and body as he is exasperated, and there’s a constant conversation between his new incarnation and the man child still clinging to his hell-raising days as he clattered into his fifth decade. It’s a show both introspective and celebratory as this new period coincides with the 30th anniversary of his first appearance at the Fringe.
The material is all very much along the same themes of family and ageing. It isn’t breaking new ground, but being in his company as he conducts his existential archaeology is a rare treat. Like hardy perennials such as Simon Munnery and long-time collaborator Stewart Lee, the Fringe feels like his natural habitat and there’s a sense he can do little wrong. He always stay on the right side of nostalgia; and you can be sure there’s a certain glee he extracts from the panic he sews among some young men in the room at his announcement that the force of a man’s ejaculation diminishes as he ages.
He ties up his hour with an analogy involving a toy involving plastic penguins climbing up stairs and descending a chute. That there is life in a nutshell. No more, no less and it’s his realisation that there is no point grasping for a higher purpose that is the well from which his burgeoning contentment springs. It’s rare to see someone age gracefully and remain just as funny as he always has been. One suspects Oh Wanksocks, I’m 90! will be a stonker.