Live Review: Richard Herring @ Cast Doncaster

Wednesday 22nd May

I’ve long been an admirer of Richard Herring as a lover of his podcast and of his general outlook and demeanour. I missed his last visit to Doncaster (in which one of my mates who was at the show was chastised by Herring for a poorly timed drunken heckle – something we still gleefully use a stick to beat him with even today) and so it was lovely to see the man in all of his shaggy haired glory…

Herring takes to the stage with little fanfare and wastes no time in talking bollocks. In 2021, Herring went to the GP to find out why his right testicle appeared to be growing. After a series of tests, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Luckily, and I’m being relative here, they caught it early, the testicle was removed and Herring lived to fight another day. In 2022, Herring published a book about this experience entitled Can I Have My Ball Back? And in 2024, the North Yorkshire comedian has begun a stand up tour of the same name.

Following a brief introduction, Herring begins with a blow by blow (ball by ball?) account of his journey through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. While such an experienced comic is always going to be funny no matter the subject matter, and the set is frequently hilarious, what I was most taken with was how big-hearted and introspective the material was. Herring is comfortable going a minute or two without laughs if it helps to drive his point across – namely that our time on this earth is limited and we should make the most of what we have – whether that be by flying a kite with his daughter, or making a (really) shit snowman with his kids. Herring provides photo evidence of both events on the huge screen behind him, whilst also rejoicing in a picture his daughter drew of him being enveloped by lava whilst simultaneously being eaten by a crocodile. A heady mix.

It’s not all heartwarming sentiment, however, there are plenty of gags here too. Herring compares his testicles to the Chuckle Brothers before commenting that he never could keep a partnership together (one of a few subtle but well received references to his former comedy wife Stewart Lee). Later, he concedes that his brush with death has ensured that he only does things he really wants to do now before pondering how this new found selectivity has led to a gig in Doncaster. After the interval, we are treated to a performance in which Herring personifies his rogue right testicle as a quite grotesque ventriloquist’s dummy before he leaves us with some final, much more poignant pictures drawn by his daughter, and the message that every day is precious.

It’s chastening to see a comedian that has been working for so long still clearly enjoying his work to such a degree and the warm audience response suggests that I’m not the only one to think so. Can I Have My Ball Back? is a thoughtful, poignant and life-affirming show. Herring at his very best.