Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache, Underbelly, Edinburgh
A well-deserved salute
Wednesday 19 August 2009
Will Richard Herring do anything in the name of comedy? The stout Fringe veteran, whose cult status was elevated by television stardom in the 1990s as one half of Lee and Herring, once tried to steal Germaine Greer's bra. Now he's grown a Hitler moustache.
This hair-raising task was undertaken to reclaim the iconography of the facial accessory, taking it away from Hitler and giving it back to Charlie Chaplin, two contemporaries whose careers, "it's fair to say, dropped off after the Second World War."
Risking being taken for a Nazi nutjob for a portion of this year leads Herring to pontificate about race and specifically the assertion that "maybe racists have a point", a statement that kicked off some brouhaha with The Guardian before the Fringe began. The point of the racists being that they see the world as a handful of different skin types rather than nearly 200 separate nations. "If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves the way a racist sees them – 'What are we doing? Why are we fighting? I'm a Paki, you're a Paki.'" Having housed offensive language in a broader point, the intent is clear and, in a way, it's almost an attempt to nullify its insult.
So clear, in fact, is Herring's polemic, that two-thirds of the way through, he lets forth a joke-free castigation of anyone in his audience who didn't vote in the last set of European elections, thereby letting the BNP in through the back door. Having listened to political parties, who have all said at one point or another to "trust the people", it's extremely refreshing to hear someone throwing mud back at them. Comedy can be a forum for the lowest common denominator, but it also offers a home to something approaching truth. Kudos to Herring for using it for the latter.
All told, Hitler Moustache is an ebullient show that earns Herring the right to his own five-minute political broadcast. The least effective section is the closing one where Herring describes being mugged for his iPhone and the ensuing chase of the suspect that casts mild aspersions on the ethnic blindness of the police and little light on Hitler's supposed motivations for the Holocaust. By this point, however, Herring has done enough, peeking out of the shadow of his former comedy partner, Stewart Lee, to notch up another hit for his solid back catalogue.
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