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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Richard Herring: Saying Things We Know To Be True But Are Scared Of Saying, So You Don't Have To!

It's like this: Every now and again, I go all hard over a certain "type" of "something" and spend all my time writing and reading about that thing. Sometimes it's consumerist bullshit like The X Factor (well, it's always that) and sometimes it's a little band that no-one's ever really heard of - a band like Melt Banana, a real acquired taste, or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. And sometimes I look right back to my earliest days of knowing, instinctively, what funny is. Ladies and Gents, Richard Herring is funny.

If you don't know him, you should be ashamed. Not really... Let me educate you, though, to avoid embarrassment in the future. From Cheddar in Somerset came a man. That man was he. In the dying days of Alternative Comedy Richard Herring took his 2:1 in Modern History from Oxford and with it (as many with degrees do nowadays) began a career in comedy.

He is probably best known as "The Fat One off Lee & Herring" (not my description) - the best comedy double-act there has been in modern times (my description). Together with Genius-Equal Stewart Lee, Rich wrote for some of the best performers and programmes Britain had to offer. On TV, Lee & Herring gave us Fist Of Fun (which began on Radio 1, back when it was good) and the show that I honestly think formed me as a person (gush), This Morning With Richard Not Judy - a near-the-knuckle Sunday lunchtime show parodying the ITV Richard AND Judy shit-fest which was so popular at the time.

It is as a solo performer, though, that Rich's strengths lie, if you ask me. He's not afraid to say the things we know to be true, but are too scared to say; his various solo stand-up shows are all based on ideas most of us wouldn't let get past the "idea" stage. Between 1994 and today he's given us more than ten great shows; the best - for me - being Christ On A Bike (2001), The 12 Tasks Of Hercules Terrace (2004) and the wonderful Hitler Moustache! It is the latter I wish to talk about.

The name itself is almost unfair. But if the show were to be called The Charlie Chaplin Moustache then it wouldn't have the same pull, would it? As I'm sure you have guessed the show is about the misunderstanding of "The Hitler Moustache" and it explored whether it was the facial hair that made Hitler evil... But it's far more interesting and infinitely more thought-provoking than that. 

The exploration of racists' views by questioning whether hating JUST black people is actually worse than general misanthropy is inspired! Richard argues an uncomfortable point with wit and intelligence - just like every topic he tackles - and brings to our attention our very own deeply-disguised almost-racism. I watched the show and, as well as laughing heartily throughout, found myself looking at myself and giving myself a 'silent-ticking-off' about the awful things I've never noticed I think. As always, when I review stuff I want people to experience for themselves, I don't want to tell you "this happens" and "he says this funny thing" and what have you, but I will say this: The DVD has just been released; it's not expensive; it IS worth every single penny. 

This isn't one for the easily offended or the stupid, though. Intelligent people with open minds ready to be shown a skewed yet lucid side of a topic that many run from for fear of saying the wrong thing will love this. Richard Herring, as fans of any of his work will know, is not a man who "holds back". He is an innovative and cutting-edge comic (quite a feat considering he's been doing this for pretty much 20 years straight). I can't heap enough praise on him. Watch all his shows. They're mostly available from Cardiff life-savers GoFasterStripe and I urge you to begin your collection now.