It is ironic that prior to the BBC iPlayer recording of the ‘Wheelchair’ episode of the second series of Radio 4’s Richard Herring’s Objective runs an advert for Life’s Too Short. For Richard Herring manages to actually achieve what Ricky Gervais claims to do — well-crafted, intelligent comedy on the subject of disability, as opposed to contrived awkward reactions. Also notable is the appearance of comedienne Francesca Martinez, whose cerebral palsy was the condition causing awkwardness in one episode of Extras, a role which she had to rewrite so that she’d take the part. Here she’s cast in an antagonistic position, rather than being a figure of ridicule. It is telling that such comedy is broadcast on the radio and not on television; indeed, Martinez claims that producers are cautious of booking her on panel shows.
The less famous of the 90s Lee-Herring double act of shows such as Fist of Fun (recently released on DVD), Herring’s approach to comedy is more cheery and charismatic than Stewart Lee’s, but no less considered and clever. The second series of Objective sees the man attempt to reclaim offensive or controversial items, with the assistance of TV’s Emma Kennedy’s silly voices.
As well as people’s attitudes towards disability, Herring also examines the dark side (no pun intended) of Enid Blyton’s Noddy books with their villainous ‘golliwog’ characters, whether page three of The Sun is harmless fun or a national embarrassment, and the relationship between the public school tie and class, featuring a guess appearance from Alexei Sayle.
It’s an enjoyable slice of radio comedy with an unfortunately low number of episodes, but it manages to be more substantial and enjoyable than many of its TV counterparts.