Fest review of HM
Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache
Posted by Ed Ballard, Wed 12 Aug 2009
Richard Herring strides into the lights to the sound of Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries', adjusts his side-swept hair, and allows us to take in the square of moustache that's sprouting from his upper lip. Acknowledging the applause, he raises his right hand in what can only be called a Nazi salute.
It's obviously provocative, and that's the point. Isn't it ridiculous that facial hair can be so immediately risquÃ©? Isn't it unjust that the moustache of Charlie Chaplin, who mocked the FÃ¼hrer, has instead become a symbol of evil? This is the theme of Herring's 25th fringe show: his attempt to rehabilitate the world's most evil facial hair. There should be a Toothbrush Moustache Day along the lines of Red Nose Day, he declares, encouraging his fans to improve other comics' posters with Hitler moustaches.
Herring spends a lot of time deriding the middle classes' tendency to fret about how much they secretly love being un-PC. He taunts the Edinburgh crowd: that's right, it's a Hitler moustache, but you love it, don't you! He makes his audience complicit. We have to dare him to go there when he asks who wants to hear his Madeleine McCann joke, which is so evil he swears he wouldn't tell it were it not for us sickos. The audience roars its approval. "That's why democracy's fucked", he cries triumphantly.
He is genuinely worried about democracy, though. It takes the crowd a second or two to realise he's being serious when he tells us off for allowing the BNP its recent success. I'm not sure if I'm really as culpable as Herring claims, but his plan for dealing with Griffin and coâ€”standing beside them in Hitler moustaches at photo opsâ€”is surely a masterstroke. Why hasn't this been tried before?
A fair amount of Herring's material registers highly on the zero-Maddy outrage scale. He promises to wank on Margaret Thatcher's grave, and a recent brush with street-crime leaves him wondering whether he might sympathise with Hitler had his iPhone been stolen by a Jew. He riffs on racism: surely bigots, who ignorantly lump everyone into two or three categories, are closer to treating people equally than liberals, who dutifully allow for manifold differences of culture, religion and sexuality?
Herring is well aware that it's paradoxical to include such material in a show that also offers a stout liberal defence of political correctness. In a lengthy self-interrogation he tries to figure out what is so magical about inverted commas, that they can turn a sick joke into a parody of a sick joke.
There's a lot in this show that you could choose to take offence at, but this is the Fringe, and sometimes you have to take the inverted commas for granted. If you need me, I'm the one with the black marker looking thoughtfully at the Jimmy Carr poster.