Times Review of HM
August 17, 2009
Richard Herring at the Underbelly
Sit through Hitler Moustache and youâ€™ll find a really excellent comedy show: an often bitterly funny attack on racism
Richard Herringâ€™s 25th Fringe show became his most controversial before it even opened, thanks to a nasty spat over a newspaper article that he insisted took lines from it out of context. A bit precious, is he? Well, when your show includes lines such as â€œI began to think that the racists had a pointâ€, then you, too, would be wary of where they go when youâ€™re not there to look after them. The defence of â€œironyâ€ is valid, but hardly begins to explain what is going on here.
Well, sit through Hitler Moustache and youâ€™ll find a really excellent comedy show: a playful, pointed and often bitterly funny attack on racism. And if his growing of the â€™tache of the title for the show sounds like a stunt for stuntâ€™s sake, Herring is first to list all the potential objections to it. â€œItâ€™s a lot of commitment,â€ he booms cheerily, â€œfor what is essentially quite a glib idea.â€
Yet this glib idea takes Herring out of his comfort zone of self-mocking self-aggrandisement â€” or is it self-aggrandising self-mockery? â€” and gives him something real to rub up against. He recounts his misadventures out and about with a moustache that makes him feel like a leper the moment he leaves the house.
Best of all, he embarks on gloriously specious arguments. â€œItâ€™s important to respect peopleâ€™s cultural differences ... is it, though?â€ He implicates our inner prejudices â€” getting us to urge him to tell a Madeleine McCann joke, proclaiming himself to be at the mercy of the mob â€” then deconstructs those prejudices with accuracy and imagination.
If the show has a fault itâ€™s that he ballasts it with too much sincere anti-racism. His lengthy assault on the BNP needs more of the finely tuned false priorities that allow him to have his cake and eat it elsewhere. But towards the end, when heâ€™s debating whether or not heâ€™s mocking prejudice or just wallowing in it, heâ€™s electrifying. Hitler Moustache canâ€™t always make good on its provocative promise. But itâ€™s stimulating, passionate and thoroughly entertaining.
Box office: 0131-226 0000, to Aug 30