Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache
Reclaiming symbols and raising standards
This article is from 2009.
A few things have gotten under Richard Herring’s skin of late. He’s hated being misrepresented in the press, got hacked off when his precious iPhone was nicked in open public view and truly bristled when the Great British public stood idly by while the BNP secured a pair of seats in the European elections. All of these events happened during a period when, for his art, Herring chose to do a brave and/or stupid thing: don a Hitler moustache.
But Herring is here to strive for more than just ‘look a dick’ for our amusement; he’s seeking to reclaim for comedy the silly bit of hair nestling above the lip (‘not so much the elephant in the room as the caterpillar’) and to remind everyone that Charlie Chaplin got in there first. It’s high time we all tried to win back this hirsute icon in the exact same way that the Nazis reconfigured the swastika from a symbol of peace to insignia of hatred.
While Herring’s trademark of deconstructing stand-up’s artifice through ‘characters’ conversing on stage is intact (expect the ten minutes here to run to about half an hour when it goes on tour), Hitler Moustache is surely his most passionate Fringe hour to date. There is no punchline available to relieve the heartfelt lecture about the power of the ballot box, but stirring gags about media representations of the Michael Jackson death and the ludicrous paradoxes at the dank heart of racism are just around the corner. Few would ever deny Herring’s credentials as a master of his form, but now he has upped his standard, broadened the palette and dared others to take his lead.
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