Guardian review of HM
4 out of 5
o Brian Logan
o guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 August 2009 17.03 BST
o Article history
"Will a toothbrush moustache make me successful?" muses Richard Herring in his new show. "After all, it worked for Hitler." It seems to be working for Herring, too, whose posters call Hitler Moustache "the most talked-about show in Edinburgh". It might well be. Far more than his recent, introspective shows, this is a political hour of standup, in which Herring volunteers himself as Charlie Chaplin's heir â€“ as a fellow wearer of the "nasal welcome mat", and as a joker who dares to be serious about the fight against fascism.
Much of the set plays with the idea of racism and the politics of offence. Present and incorrect is Herring's usual mischief-making with taboos: he has the audience vote on whether he should tell a Madeleine McCann joke, then blames them for the curdled atmosphere when he does. In the strongest routine, he itemises the four categories into which racists divide humanity: white, black, Chinese and "anyone who can be played by the actor Nadim Sawalha". That reductive worldview is defensible, says Herring, because it leads us closer to universal equality than the endless cultural distinctions made by liberals. "If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves as racists see them," he says â€“ then they'd have nothing to fight about.
This is teasing and entertaining stuff, but the laughter stops latterly, when Herring delivers a jokes-lite lecture on our collective failure in the recent European elections to check the march of the BNP. This is bizarrely self-important. But it's also bracing to hear anti-nazism so passionately expressed.
The peripheral material, about the personal inconvenience entailed by sporting a Hitler 'tache, is funny but overplayed; as Herring admits, no one seemed that bothered by his fascist facial fuzz. The show, however, will generate much more excitement â€“ and justifiably so.