YOU don’t always get testicular puppetry at a stand-up comedy show, but one comic went balls to the walls in Carlisle earlier this month.

Richard Herring is perhaps best known for his and Stewart Lee’s comedy shows from the 90s 'Fist Of Fun' and 'This Morning with Richard Not Judy'.

His more commercially successful double act partner, Stewart Lee, has since gone on to become a popular solo act, while Herring has worked on various books, the Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP), performed on stage, and has been a top contender on Taskmaster.

Splitting with Lee - going from two to one - is more relevant to this 2024 show than it may appear. He is touring ‘Can I Have My Ball Back’, based on his book of the same name, which covers his experience with testicular cancer, and he brought the show to Carlisle's Old Fire Station on July 3.

It’s less of a joke-every-minute circus and more of a one-man show that blends the fear and sadness that comes with the threat of cancer with the crude, blue, and at times grotesque humour associated with his balls.

He makes no effort to shy away from something that every person with a set of knackers ought to know: testicular cancer is a very real but preventable threat, and regular personal checking is crucial.

Unfortunately for Richard, he waited too long, despite noticing that his right testicle was noticeably larger than the other.

It was during Covid as well, so visiting the doctors was 'for emergencies only' and was in itself risky, so he put it off for too long.

When visiting the doctor, he went through the rigmarole of a biopsy, scans, and eventually, orchiectomy, all the while facing the existential dread of leaving his young children too early for them to remember him.

Richard Herring is a highly talented writer, and it’s noticeable in this set, where moments of bleakness are then expertly counteracted with perhaps more shallow concerns - that a more attractive, moustachioed and cowboy boot-wearing hunk will replace him six months after his death, drink all his single malt whisky and fornicate with his wife.

One memorable segment was a callback to his attempt at live-streamed ventriloquism. Herring brought out a custom-made puppet of his right testicle, which told coarse and cruel jokes to the audience at the comedian’s expense, explaining exactly why he tried to kill him - as revenge for abandoning his northern roots and being quite literally overshadowed by his penis.

It was truly eye-opening, and for us in the audience with testicles, a rude awakening to the fact that our time on earth is precious and finite, and can be taken away in the blink of an eye. It is a vital public service announcement peppered with memorable and subversive humour to make sure it sticks in our minds.