Richard Herring – Hitler Moustache

I have just got back from seeing Richard Herring perform his stand-up show “Hitler Moustache” at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham. I’ve been following Richard on twitter for a while and enjoyed the AIOTM shows and have recently been getting into the Collings and Herrin podcast a bit more too.

It’s the first proper comedy gig I’ve been to in a long time (apart from Eddie Izzard at the Wembley Arena – a great gig but more akin to watching a DVD on a giant screen). That I was there is a testament to the ability of twitter to engage very directly with a (potential) audience, as the Scotsman noted. Plenty of people were tweeting during the interval. Would I have been there had it not been for twitter or AIOTM? Probably not.

The venue was pretty much what I was expecting; small and warm. It seated about 120 people in unreserved seating. I ended up in the second row. That can be foolish at a comedy gig; you’re in the firing line for being picked on. However, I thought that it wouldn’t be that kind of show, and by and large it wasn’t.

My first thought was, rather predictably, that Richard was shorter than I expected. I wonder if performers go around thinking that “normal people” are all taller than they expect. Wearing a crumpled suit and sporting a masscara-darkened toothbrush moustache, he launched into a show which was funny and thought provoking, inventive and full of invective.

The venue was so small, it would have been hard to have felt more involved without being on the stage. You could notice tiny nuances which would otherwise be lost; his almost obsessive kicking of the microphone lead, the occasional subconscious check that his flies were done up and the mostly suppressed smile when he amused himself. Like all good performers he was making eye contact with the audience, particularly those in the first few rows. At first this rather put me off: I felt under pressure to look like I was enjoying myself, to laugh louder because I was being talked to. But it wore off and even added to my enjoyment.

The only downside to the gig was the hideously drunk woman sat two rows behind and across the aisle. She was clearly plastered before she came in and got worse as she tipped more drink down her throat. Her accompanying male friend seemed similarly inebriated. He didn’t display the same overly loud laugh that she unleashed at any opportunity, although he did manage to match her efforts at talking throughout most of the first half. It was as if they thought they were watching a DVD and were oblivious to the presence of the rest of the audience, who where tutting and glaring at them.

Richard used a range of put-downs to try and get the couple to shut up, but to no avail. Although she shouted out a few things, she wasn’t trying to be a “proper” heckler, she was just pissed and either didn’t realise or didn’t care that she was spoiling the show for others and disrupting the pace of the performance. So the heckler put-downs didn’t really work. In the second half he made clever use of a comic character to be incredibly rude to her. If I had been the target, I would have been mortified and left. However she was almost oblivious, despite the round of applause that the tirade received. It was only when, during the start of the climax of the show, Richard stopped and very quietly told her she was spoling the show for everyone else that she quietened down, almost until the end. He couldn’t have done anything else by that point: To have gone on a typical comedian’s rant at her would have spoiled the build-up to the end of the show.

If it had been a gig consisting of 90 minutes of assorted knob gags and swearing, I wouldn’t have minded a few heckles distracting the comedian and the heckler receiving some abuse as recompense. But this show wasn’t like that. It had a clear objective and serious topics to laugh about. The drunken women almost de-railed the denouement. It was a great show with a real structure but that structure was undermined by the simple, thoughtless act of someone blithering away a couple of rows behind.

I can thoroughly recommend the show – go and see it. Just hope there aren’t drunken, thoughtless idiots in the audience.

Richard also blogged about the gig. Pleasingly we agree about the impact of the drunken woman on the flow of the show.

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