Richard Herring is one of my comedy heroes. From listening to Fist of Fun on Radio 1, to watching the resulting TV programmes and following his weekly podcast since week 3. I went to see the preview of his new Edinburgh show Hitler Moustache on Saturday and had every intention of blogging about it. Then The new offenders of standup comedy appeared in the Guardian on Monday and I was moved to get on with it.
I'll come back to the article later. It annoyed me and not just for the obvious reason. Anyway, the show - the basic premise (being Herring, it goes off on some pretty complicated, but no less relevant, tangents) is that he is trying reclaim the 'toothbrush' mustache, as it was originally called, from Hitler in the name of comedy since Charlie Chaplin's upper lip was warmed by the same style of facial hair.
I've seen Herring perform many times, either live or on DVD, and, as said above, listen to the 'Collings and Herrin' podcast he does with Andrew Collins every week, so I am pretty familiar with his work. Hitler Moustache is his best I've seen so far. I'm not going to go into too much detail because I think reviews of comedy that quote punch lines don't work, but it was hilarious. There was one section that hit home pretty hard after I missed my chance to vote in the recent European elections, in which the BNP gained two seats – I missed the postal vote deadline and was in Taiwan for polling day – and it did feel as if he was talking directly to me. He'd have been right to, I had no excuse.
But, if one thing was clear from the routine, he is in no way racist. In fact, he spend much of it highlighting just how stupid and shortsighted racism is. If only Brian Logan realised this before he submitted his pitiful article to the editors of the G2 and Guardian website, who then published it.
Logan had an agenda, to prove that a group of comedians were rallying against political correctness and the supposed fear of saying anything that could offend after all the 'Sachsgate' bollocks, by being offensive for the sake of it. As a starting point, this is already ridiculously wide of the mark. He then quotes Richard Herring. Again, being familiar with his recent work, I could immediately see that his words had been taken completely out of context, which is the other problem with comedy reviews – when the comedian delivers a punchline, proceeded by a well-thought-out routine, it's funny, when a journalist repeats it in writing, it isn't and can be often taken the wrong way. This was also the case in a review of Russell Brand's return to the stage following 'Sachsgate', the journalist made him sound smug and arrogant about the event and aftermath. I saw the show, that was in no way the case. Anyway, I digress.
Herring's quotations in the article were things he might say but not without a great deal of accompanying information, which would make it pretty clear that it is not what he believes. Logan cherry picks what he choses to report of his conversation with Herring throughout the article. The result, Richard Herring ends up looking like an ignorant racist, using offence for the sake of offending and getting a cheap laugh to any reader who isn't aware of his political views, intelligence and style of comedy. Unfortunately, that's quite a lot of people, great as he is, the majority of people don't go to stand-up comedy. Any stand-up comedy.
What also angered me about the article was the fact that it's yet another example of a lazy journalist either failing to do enough research or deliberately ignoring it to suit his own agenda. It's annoying enough when I read articles on subjects I have an interest in in which the journalist gets something wrong, often through lack of research, so when I read this it was pretty upsetting. Not only is it full of wrong information, it makes people who categorically aren't appear racist. Richard Herring now has to spend his life, for the duration of his Edinburgh run, with what is most commonly known as a 'Hitler' moustache with a lot of people genuinely believing he is racist. In the show he said it wasn't about him personally having the moustache, but reclaiming it for comedy. Well, that was last week.
I'm tempted to grow a toothbrush moustache as, at Herring's suggestion, a protest against the BNP in Europe but also to show my support for him. The trouble is it would look like a ginger pause button under my nose.
Here are some responses to the article: Richard Herring, Andrew Collins, David Gorman, Michael Legge, Agents of the Fifth Estate.
Anyway, in other news, Stewart Lee was there to watch the performance on Saturday and really looked like he was enjoying it. They both came into the pub afterwards. I was going to go over and say hello and how much I liked the show and their work etc etc stalk stalk, but they were too deep in conversation for me to feel like I could disturb them. Good to see them together again.