By chance recent events only served to make last night, the final night of an 135 date tour, just as relevant as it was at the start, and normally it would be fair to say that would give a bit of a shot in the arm to a year-old act – not that Richard Herring needed it. A new Tory government adds a bit more fuel to an already political act, and although he didn’t sway very far away from his tried and tested material, it brought a little frisson to it all.
Hitler Moustache is a work of absolute comedy triumph. First of all it must be noted in his favour he pronounces it ‘mustash’ and not ‘moustarshe’ which might have got on my nerves a little bit. But that’s small beans.
Striding onto the stage in a suit and tie, shaggy hair, and the requisite toothbrush moustache, his opener was irresistible: “So, they say you get more right wing as you get older…”
From there, it was a non-stop cavalcade of gags that simply did not fail to hit the mark. The first 20 minutes at least provided laugh-out-loud material roughly every ten seconds. This was awe-inspiring live comedy, honed by more than 100 performances, from a performer at his absolute peak. Set up, punchline; set up, punchline – if I’ve missed anything with what I’ve seen at the fest so far it’s been that feeling of awe of a professional comedy brain writing real, actual crafted jokes.
His argument is not as contentious as some may have made it appear (early in the run, it was misconstrued by a Guardian reviewer who called Herring racist). He has been sporting the dubious facial hair throughout the show’s run in an exploration to “reclaim it for comedy”. Charlie Chaplin had it first. Why is it something that never shook off association with the Fuhrer, he wants to know?
From there he goes on to describe the dilemmas he has faced while being the owner of a Hitler moustache, philosophically ranting about what makes people good and evil, racism, democracy, the misappropriation of symbols, judging by appearances, and how the moustache changed how he felt about himself.
In recent years, despite his constant gigging, it could be said at least to the casual observer, Herring has lived in the shadow of former comedy partner Stewart Lee. There’s no doubt that this show will change all that (if nothing else, like Lee, he can now describe his abilities – in lingo bingo terms – as a masterclass).
Why? Because Hitler Moustache has to be one of the most well-considered, beautifully-constructed, engrossingly performed, and vital stand up shows I have ever seen. I’m trying to think of anything that could compare to such a satisfying and perfect show in terms of yes, laughs, but also brain food and intellectual debate, putting big questions out there and answering them, really giving the audience a complete package, and the only comparison to be made could be maybe Bill Hicks. THERE I SAID IT.
The only problem Herring faced last night was what is usually performed as a theatre show with an interval was club style in Baby Blue without a break – so as he passed the 75 minute mark and began his final points there was a steady stream of punters shunting past to get to the loos after too many 4 pint pitchers.
However, it was an honour to be at the poignant last performance of this remarkable show, and I hope Herring is showered in all the awards it deserves. Outstanding.
This post first appeared on the Liverpool Comedy Blog on May 13, 2010.