City Screen Basement Bar, York, 31/01/2010
by Paul Stephenson
Richard Herring‘s star may not be on the ascendancy in quite the same way as his old Fist Of Fun cohort Stewart Lee, but there is a definite sense in the City Screen Basement Bar that we may be about to watch something quite special. Having rebuilt his profile up slowly through constant gigging and the podcasts he does with Andrew Collings, his profile may not be huge, but his reputation has gone from strength to strength, especially on the back of highly favourable views of this, what was his 25th consecutive Edinburgh show, and when he strides on stage in his Reservoir Dogs suit and eponymous ‘Hitler’ Moustache it is to rapturous response from this small but sold out venue.
And right from the start he wins over the audience by simulatneously tickling our funny bones and flattering our intellects. An early joke based entirely around the question of whether the audience is familiar with the term ‘hubris‘ sets the tone for two 45 minute halves that manage to challenge our preconceptions of racism, identity and the old chestnut of political correctness in a way that is never preachy or condescending but is consistantly hilarious.
Based on Herring‘s decision to reclaim the ‘toothbrush’ moustache for comedy (it was Chaplin’s first, as he points out) he veers between the anecdotal tales of what it actually was like to appear in public with it (although I would have loved to have heard how it went down after his appearance on Charlie Brooker‘s ‘Thank You For Watching‘) and cutting insight into the issues raised by it, this was powerful stuff from start to finish, my particular highlight being part of the second act when he stopped to have a metaphysical conversation with a fictional aspect himself over his own language during the show. When he launched a tirade into Nick Griffin‘s politics whilst similarly bemoaning the belittlement of the man’s physical deformity my brain nearly went into a logic breakdown.
Towards the end Herring became visibly knackered and his voice started to give out, a product no doubt of his having done the same gig earlier in the day as a matinee performance. But it mattered not a jot, and he finished as strong as he had started (notwithstanding the obligatory money beg at the end) and even had the energy left over to sign autographs afterwards, generous man that he is. Coming out of the gig the punters were all smiles, and you could hear them debating the issues of the show as they walked off down the street, and I can’t really give much higher recommendation than that.
From start to finish this was a masterclass on how to control an audience form someone who has spent so much of his life on the stage that his instinctual reading of his audience was brilliant. If the sign of a good comedy gig is how hard your sides hurt at the end, then this was certainly an above average gig, but by being so much more, this will be a performance that will stay with me for a lot longer than any other comedy gig that I have seen before.
10 Chaplin moustaches / 10