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Friday 14th November 2003

If I have learned one thing from travelling across Italy by train (and I have only learned one thing) it is this. When it comes to Hale and Pace, the Italian people vastly prefer Pace. Their attitude to Hale is ambivalent at best and I suspect that it is actively hostile.
The reason I can be sure of this is because I have seen, hanging from the balconies or windows of many ordinary Italian homes, the same multi-coloured, rainbow flag emblazoned simply with the words “Pace”. And yet I have not seen a single, solitary sign proclaiming support for Pace’s erstwhile partner in crime, Hale. I haven’t seen any flags that are bold enough to be anti-Hale (“Non Hale” would be my limited guess at how that might be expressed in Italian or possibly “Hale e merda”), but in many ways to ignore him completely is more effective an insult than to actually state indifference.
I must say that I was surprised to find out that the Italians held any such views.
Firstly, I did not realise that the work of the disappointing 1980s double act had reached this far across Europe. I am sure that their clever satire upon the stupidity of bouncers, or their mockery of the chirpiness of children’s TV presenters or… any of the other things that they did, would translate into another language, but I just hadn’t realised this had happened.
Secondly, if the Italians liked the work of Pace, you would imagine they would like Hale as well. The team were very much a double act, but not one with a definite straight man or funny man. So whilst one could understand why someone might like Morecambe and not appreciate Wise (stupidly in my opinion. Wise, despite being the ostensible straight man, was essential to the act and Morecambe on his own would not have worked), or applaud Herring whilst dismissing Lee (in this case a wise decision. Lee clearly held Herring back, as I think history has proved. What, if anything has Lee achieved in the last four years? Nothing. Whilst Herring has written a book about cocks. QED), to watch Hale and Pace and decide that you liked the humour of one of them, but not the other, seems a strange decision to come to. And whilst I can at least admit that it would be possible to have a slight preference as to which one was the funniest, to go as far as putting up a flag to one and ignoring the other seems eccentric at best.
Thirdly I find it quite astonishing that any Italian would be able to differentiate which one was Hale and which one was Pace anyway. It is something I feel that most British people could not do, despite having been exposed to the mindless and childish humour of the ex-teacher duo for the last twenty years. A bit like Ant and Dec they tend to be referred to as a couple, but never as individuals and thus we can’t be sure which is which (the way I remember Ant and Dec is that Ant is the one who is an ant and Dec is the normal human. As with Matthew Wright there are a million other ants waiting in an ant hive for any accident to befall the original Ant and replace him. Ant has already been replaced, without anyone really noticing over 400 times. Amazingly there is only one Dec, so if any tragedy were to befall him then the partnership would be over. Dec, not being an ant, is made of stronger stuff). I always think that Hale and Pace could have avoided this confusion by, instead of calling themselves Hale and Pace as they apparently chose to, choosing to be known as Moustache and Not Moustache. Immediately any confusion over identity would have been solved. “Which one’s Moustache again?”
“He’s the one with the Moustache.”
“Oh right, so Not Moustache…..?”
“By a process of elimination is the one without the moustache.”
“Yeah, I get it. There’s a kind of clue in the names isn’t there?”
“Yes, that’s right. It’s like Ant and Dec, a bit. Except that Dec isn’t a deck. He’s a man.”
“They should have called them Ant and Not Ant”
“That would have been better.”
I think, though, if Hale and Pace had called themselves Moustache and Not Moustache this would have made most of their routines turgid and embarrassing and long winded and shit.
For example,
“Hello Moustache.”
“Hello Not Moustache.
“How are you today Moustache?”
“Well, Not Moustache, I am quite well. How about you?”
“I have to say Moustache that I am not that good. And I was wondering Moustache, why are you dressed up like a flamenco dancer?”
“Well, Not Moustache, thereby hangs a quite amusing tale. It’s nothing to do with my moustache incidentally. I know we keep referring to the moustache or lack of thing, which might make moustaches seem important in our comedy. But actually they play no part in the amusingness of what’s going on…..”
“Except when you are dressed as a woman, Moustache.”
“Very true Not Moustache. Then it’s obviously funny to everyone. But apart from that the moustache thing is just our names and a way of identifying us, meaning we don’t have to invent separate or contradictory personas and has nothing to do with the funniness of the skit we are about to embark on….”
“Except Moustache, that you are currently dressed as a woman.”
“Oh Not Moustache, wait til I get my hands on you.”

And so it would go on (actually that was quite easy. If things dry up for me I can always get a job writing for them- or any double act where one of them has a moustache and the other doesn’t). So it’s lucky they called themselves Hale and Pace to stop this tedium setting in. But I think it was a good idea for one of them to grow a moustache, so that people were able to at least differentiate between them, even if they weren’t sure which one was Hale and which one was Pace. They could identify them to friends as either, “The One with the Moustache” or alternatively, “The One without the Moustache” or for simplicity’s sake “Moustache and Not Moustache”.
The fourth reason that the Italian support for Pace at the expense of Hale made me pause for thought was that as an expert in comedy I am fairly sure that Pace is the one without the moustache. Or Not Moustache as he is commonly known. So it is weird that the Italians should like him best, because I believe that it is generally acknowledged, even by the people who like Hale and Pace, that the one with the moustache is the talented member of the act. Whilst Not Moustache is being carried a bit. Moustache (Hale) can do a few different characters, has a modicum of comic timing, is good at pulling slightly cheeky faces and corpsing in an attempt to make the audience go with an otherwise quite pedestrian comic idea. Plus he also has a moustache. Which is funnier than not having a moustache.
Pace, on the other hand, looks a bit like a teacher who thought he was funny at the end of the year and used to get up and do a turn which involved miming to a Status Quo record whilst wearing a funny wig. He looks like that, because that is essentially what he is. And unlike all the other teachers who were like that he didn’t have the common decency to restrict his appearances to once a year in front of just his school. He decided we should all have to see them. And on top of all that he doesn’t even have a moustache. (Though, to be fair, the act wouldn’t work at all if he did. One bloke with a moustache next to another bloke without one is amusing. Two blokes with moustaches…well there’s nowhere to go is there? One of them isn’t automatically funnier than the other. It’s just two moustachioed blokes. Maybe if they were both dressed as women, but how far is that going to take them… I don’t know, look at French and Saunders…. Ha ha ha ha. Do you see what I did there?)
So what is it about the Italian mentality that not only finds Hale and Pace amusing, is able to identify which one is Hale and which one is Pace (without the complicated and long winded moustache method) and then perversely decides that they prefer the untalented Pace to the comparatively slightly talented Hale? Not only that, but they feel it’s such an important issue to warrant the display of incongruously colourful flags. What’s wrong with these people? Aren’t there more important things to argue about?
Don’t they know there are bloody wars going on?

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