Tache Of A Titan

[Live] Richard Herring, Hitler Moustache, Norwich Playhouse, 3rd April 2010

Now that the whole New Offensives row has reared its ugly head yet again, it’s an apt time to see the show which helped kick the whole thing off. Well okay, I’m about a year late on this but I need an in for this blog post somehow. Following on from the chucklesome, if somewhat introspective and nostalgic Headmaster’s Son, this show sees Herring move into distinctly more edgy territory. And not a knob gag in sight.

The nascent premise of the show is Herring growing a toothbrush moustache in order to reclaim it as the Charlie Chaplin moustache and disassociate it from its Nazi connotations. Of course Herring is bright enough to know that was never really going to happen and admits so from the start. But what begins as a fairly rambling discourse about his intentions  and the very nature of writing a comedy show soon moves into a much more thoughtful discussion of race, politics and what defines the term ‘offensive.’

Herring’s original intention was allegedly to see what people’s reactions to ‘a dick with a Hitler moustache’ would be, but it soon became apparent nobody gave a solitary shit about it. His friends didn’t mention it, a black security guard who searched his bag and found it to be full of BNP leaflets rose above it, and even the policeman who helped him try to recover his iPhone didn’t question it – in fact he couldn’t have been more helpful; read into that what you will. The only negativity he encountered came from sportscaster Jim Rosenthal, who remarked to his wife “Is that a man with a Hitler moustache? Oh dear.” All this was evidence of what an essentially tolerant country we live in, but didn’t really help when he had 90 minutes of stage time to fill.

But no matter as Herring is on much stronger ground when he starts playing with the preconceptions of the presumably liberal audience. When describing the aim of equality as “treating everyone as if they are the same” he points out that racists are actually much closer to this ideal as they reduce humanity down to four types of people: “white, black, Chinese and ‘anyone who can be played by the actor Nadim Sawalha,'” as apposed to the 190 or so distinct countries most of us divide the globe into. “If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves as the racists see them – Pakis, they’d have nothing to fight about.” The joke-heavy first half gives way to a surprisingly serious second half where Herring rants against the rise of the BNP and makes an impassioned plea for voters to get off their arses and stop it – if just 5,000 more people had voted for any other party during the European elections, the BNP wouldn’t have gained their two seats and be representing us on the world stage. Then going full circle, he reintroduces Chaplin – whose moustache Hitler copied – and uses his film The Great Dictator as an example of how we should all be brave and challenge racism in whatever small way we can.

Of course the real reason nobody has a Hitler moustache is because it makes you look like a cunt – literally, as Herring says – but that was never really the point. At the beginning of the show he poses the question “Will a toothbrush moustache make me more successful? It worked for Hitler.” On this evidence, it deserves to.

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