Hitler Moustache is Richard Herrings 25th Edinburgh show on the trot, and there is a reason he is a fringe favourite. His current mission is to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy , “taking it away from Hitler and giving it back to Charlie Chaplin, two contemporaries whose careers, it's fair to say, dropped off after the Second World War."
To this end he has taken it upon himself to grow the offensive ‘tasche and has been parading it about for many months risking possible violence from the general public for appearing to be a Nazi crackpot, but generally just appearing to be “a bit of a dick”. The show opens with his musings about why the moustache and seems to have taken the blame for Nazism, the effect his new moustache would have upon those he met, and more importantly what affects it might have on himself; “was it the toothbrush moustache that was evil? Would I become evil if I grew one” The program is full of his thoughts on the subject, but the show rapidly moves onto more substantial material.
Herrings satirical point, that a racist is less racist than the rest of us, because a racist sees the world as only a handful of different skin tones, where as the rest of us feel the need to divide the world into 195 different nationalities, is possibly his finest work. "If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves the way a racist sees them – 'What are we doing? Why are we fighting? I'm a Paki, you're a Paki.'" He is able to construct this argument so well into his candour that any inappropriateness is forgiven.
As Herring himself wrote to the Guardian, defending his show from reviewer Brian Logan “The show examines our attitudes to ethnicity and questions whether the way humans choose to divide themselves is obfuscating their essential similarity. It challenges racism, but also liberal assumptions about cultural identity”.
A trait that is common in Herring’s stand-up, is the clear feeling that they don’t have to pander to an audience. Just over half way into the show Herring embarks on a good 10-15 minute, largely jokeless, tirade against any member of the audience who did not vote in the last European election, thereby allowing the BNP to gain 2 seats in the European Parliament.
Using this to point out that fascism is not dead and gone, but “it is, and always has been, inherently ridiculous, and it can be damaged and even destroyed by laughter”. If every photo opportunity Nick Griffin has for the BNP had a backdrop of people wearing a toothbrush moustache (Herring helpfully hands out square inches of Velcro after the show from a bucket marked with a swastika, the Hindu symbol of peace) they will never be taken seriously again.
At points the performance does start to lag, but all in all the show is often hilarious, constantly thought provoking, and a highly complex take on the attitudes of the society surrounding us, with a bit of silliness thrown in for good measure.