They may seem like unlikely bedfellows but death and comedy have always held a special relationship. Our fear of death often manifests itself in a love of the ghoulish and the macabre and yet we often feel uncomfortable talking about it.
But in his latest show – We’re All Going to Die! – Richard Herring tells us that we should confront death head-on and celebrate the time that we have left on earth.
From being named after an intimate part of the body to becoming a fossil, Herring says that there are all sorts of different ways to live on after your death. Herring examines death from all angles, from religion, linguistics, existentialism to the cost of funerals and falling down the steps on the way out of the gig. He questions what the benefits of heaven are when we have to leave behind all our earthly pleasures (which are, of course, physical pleasures) in exchange for a pair of wings and concludes that death is necessary otherwise the earth would be full of unevolved amoebas who will never die.
Ever the pedant, Herring also spends plenty of time unravelling the absurdity of the nursery rhyme ‘There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly’ before concluding that the last line makes the most sense: there is a finality in death so we should make sure we should make the most of our lives. He also offers a counterpoint to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ speech in which he tells the doomed prince not to dwell on death but instead to have fun and take Ophelia out.
Anyone who saw Herring’s earlier show What is Love Anyway will remember the fondness with which he spoke of his grandmother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He tells us that she has since passed away at the age of 102 and what follows is a poignant and hilarious take on how we cope with death, demonstrating his ability to engage the audience with his fascinating and sometimes child-like take on life’s big questions.