Richard Herring at Leicester Square Theatre, WC2
Readers of Albert Speerâs Spandau diaries will recall that Hitlerâs architect once had a dream in which he was convinced he had discovered the reason the FÃ¼hrer wore such a distinctive shrub of facial hair: it was simply to distract attention from his âlarge, ill-proportioned noseâ. Afraid that he will be arrested for unearthing this state secret, he wakes up, his heart pounding.
If Speer was merely indulging in a passing fancy, Richard Herring devotes an entire show to a meditation on the most notorious moustache of the 20th century. Taking his mission ultra-seriously, he even grows some toothbrush bristle of his own to see how people react in the streets. London being London, most passers-by barely even react.
Herring did, however, find himself being branded by one newspaper as one of the ânew offendersâ in stand-up, who take pleasure in spewing out lazily offensive humour.
There are certainly some performers who fall into that category (Ricky Gervais seems to have been given a free pass by people who labour under the illusion that he is a genius). But it is absurd to condemn Herring for a show which, besides being patently anti-racist, asks the audience to think hard about the limits of bad taste and tolerance.
Itâs not a perfect display by any means. Stretched out to 90 minutes, the monologue contains a fair amount of padding, including some jabs at Michael Jackson which really are lazy. More importantly, Herring lapses into a breathless, haranguing tone that leaves you longing for some respite. If his assault on the BNP as latterday Nazis makes historical sense, it leads him to spend much of the second half of the evening preaching to the converted.
He also glosses over the general question of immigration in a breezy, right-on manner which dodges the awkward issues that have conferred some spurious respectability on Nick Griffin and his sidekicks. (Being the son of a Jamaican immigrant myself, Iâd like my side to have the strongest possible weapons in our arsenal.) But at his most inspired Herring poses some compelling questions. How was it that Hitler and Charlie Chaplin should both have sported the same look? And how is a self-professed woolly liberal supposed to react when he becomes the victim of a black thief on the streets of Shepherds Bush?
Box office: 0844 8472475), to Feb 13. Herring will be touring until late April, www.richardherring.com