Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Richard Herring is a racist

Hitler Moustache - Avalon ©2009 www.richardherring.comYesterday’s Guardian published a piece by Brian Logan which illustrated how comedians such as Richard Herring and Scott Capurro are inherently racist and offensive.

Scott Capurro often offends his audience, he tells Logan he can justify that because an audience doesn’t often get a chance to inform the performer that they are ‘fucked up’.
I think what Scott, someone who has written for the Guardian himself, might be suggesting is that his shows are intended to provoke and outrage. But this isn’t outrage for outrage’s sake, his routines are intended to make people question and think about the ludicrous views he purports to espouse. Those who don’t question Logan’s article are no doubt all too eager to construct an image of right wing murky comics who have no heart, and would imagine Capurro to be no different, but that of course, simply isn’t true.

While Brian is content to let Jimmy Carr’s ‘charming’ slurs about gypsies slip by, he is much less happy about the stand-up routine of Richard Herring. His current show, Hitler Moustache, sees him sporting a Hitler (or Charlie Chaplin) style moustache. There’s no hiding from the fact that it is an odd image, uncomfortable even, but Herring plays up to that as you can probably gather from the photo. But let’s think about this, what rational man could even remotely believe he could style his face on Hitler and tour the country spouting racism without running into bother? It’s unlikely at best isn’t it? Personally, I enjoy how it has made me ponder how something as simple as the style of facial hair can indicate evil. Herring’s plan is to reconnect the toothbrush lip hair with its comedic routes. In fact, I believe Hitler trimmed his ‘tash in this fashion because he was a fan of Chaplin’s silent antics.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen Richard’s latest show yet, but I have seen a great many of his others, and grew up watching him on shows such as Fist of Fun and This Morning with Richard not Judy. As a result, I can say categorically that he isn’t racist, and that he doesn’t use comedy as a thin disguise to promote fascism. If irony is a concept you cannot grasp, I would suggest watching the video below which should hint at Richard’s feelings towards inappropriate slurs, and views which have no place in society.

Logan’s column touches on a point which is worth exploring further. He refers to members of the audience who take unpleasant comedy material at face value and still, worryingly, find it funny. The third series of Little Britain launched with 9.5million of these island’s inhabitants observing the moving pictures and sounds, and laughing where (not) appropriate. It’s impossible to know accurately what proportion of the UK population might be considered racist, but it’s hard not to think that amongst that huge number, some may be laughing at what they perceive to be jokes at the expense of black or Asian people, or the disabled. A further concern alongside the minority who laugh openly at perceived racist jokes are those who don’t consider themselves to be card carrying BNP members, but are still tickled by mocking those of a different race.

The responsibility here lies with the audience. If they don’t understand irony, then perhaps they shouldn’t be attempting to tackle comedy more complex than that of Ken Dodd.

Brian Logan suggests that today’s funny men and women are reacting against the ranting political comedians of the 80s such as Ben Elton and Alexei Sayle. On the contrary, the message is still the same; it’s just presented in a more up-to-date and entertaining way.

You can read Herring’s reply to the article here.
“Hitler Moustache” photo reproduced with kind permission from Richard Herring © 2009 Photo by Steve Brown.


  1. The real bastards here are the likes of Jimmy Carr, who use 'but it's ironic' as a defence against making old school racist gags - hence when people are *actually* using irony to get their audience to confront their own prejudices, people who've seen Carr's excuse assume that it's more of the same.

  2. I just wish you hadn't said "Ken Dodd"! Behind the tickling-stick & funny expressions he delivered some excellent fast put downs & observations. It's just a lot easier to say he's "silly", but for those who don't want challenging comedy there are plenty of better examples you could cite!

  3. @drew
    Thanks for your comment!
    It has been a long time since I've seen Ken Dodd in action, perhaps I've underestimated him.
    Who would you suggest as a replacement?