Comedian confronts critics in Lowestoft over blasphemy claims

A controversial comedian accused of being blasphemous and vulgar faced his church going critics head on in Lowestoft last night.

Richard Herring performed his show Christ on a Bike – the Second Coming at the Marina Theatre yesterday.

Before the show started a group of 20 churchgoers waving placards demonstrated outside the theatre.

The protesters picketed the Marina Theatre as they claim a flier promoting the show was blasphemous and vulgar. They also say the content of show mocks Jesus.

Last night's protest was organised by the Rev Kyle Paisley of the Free Presbyterian Church in Oulton Broad and was attended by other church groups from across the region.

Mr Herring, who shot to fame in the 1990s with comedian Stewart Lee, spoke to the protesters and defended his show, which examines whether he has achieved as much in his life as Jesus.

The comedian, who is an atheist, also said the comments he has made on a website about the people of East Anglia being backward were taken out of context by the media.

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When asked what he thought of the protesters' views on his show he told them: 'They should come and see the show first.'

He also said the show was a tribute to the life of Jesus – regardless if he was the son of God.

Mr Herring told the churchgoers he respected their views and right to protest. But he admitted he used 'vulgarity' to annoy people.

The comedian, who is on a national tour, also defended himself after he described churchgoers who planned to protest as 'more backward than people of East Anglia, and imagine how backwards that makes them feel'.

Mr Herring said: 'I like East Anglia. I spend a lot of time here.'

The protest was sparked after a flier featured a mock up Bible in which God and Holy Spirit are seen to use offensive words or phrases in a conversations with Mr Herring. It also said Jesus was 'cool' while people who follow him are 'idiots'.

It is thought that only 100 tickets out of 700 were sold for last night's show, which saw police watch over the religious protest.

Mr Paisley, who is the son of Ulster politician Lord Bannaside (Ian Paisley), was pleased with the protest turnout, with people coming from Norwich and Wangford.

He said: 'We are here tonight to represent the awareness of Christian feeling in the town over Mr Herring's show.

'It is abuse of God's and Jesus' name and is vulgar and blasphemous. I hope we can persuade people not to see it and see the alternative instead – the love of Jesus.'

Mr Herring first performed Christ on a Bike in 2001 and launched his latest tour in London in December –the first of more than 90 performances.

He is performing at Norwich's Playhouse tonight and tomorrow.

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