Does 19th century Russian composer Tchaikovsky have a silly side? Western classical aficionados may turn up their haughty noses but stand-up comic Rainer Hersch finds it’s easier to get a laugh with a string quartet to back him up.
When Hersch was 12, he began taking private lessons to play the clarinet and at 14, started piano classes as well. Growing up in London, he also took to comedy, tickling crowds with his one-liners while still in college.
Then 20 years ago, Hersch gave up his job with the London Festival Orchestra to be a full-time musician-comic. “I started out doing the usual straight stand-up comedy. My routine involved politics, ex-girlfriend, sex and other run of the mill things. Then I thought, why not write about the only thing I know anything about,” says Hersch over a telephone call from Dubai.
His next stop is Mumbai, where he will perform his act called All Classical Music Explained at The Comedy Club. His act will include him playing the piano and the didgeridoo while delivering clever comedy inspired by his career as a conductor.
“There are plenty of people who do music and comedy separately. At first, I thought Western classical music was taken too seriously for people to laugh at it but everyone is exposed to the music in movies, cartoon and even the elevator, so the audience does connect,” says Hersch.
In the age of Insult comics who leave no topic off-limits and take pot shots at everything from religion, sex and the Queen, Hersch plays it safe with a unique style of comedy that packs in music and jokes for some good old-fashioned entertainment.
Apart from his musical-comedy bit, his routine will also include a chapter on his reactions to India, though he admits it’s not too difficult to “scare a Brit”.
He prefers not to compare himself to other comedians but maintains that they are good company.
He explains, “Comedians don’t put pressure on you to be funny all the time. What is frustrating is when you meet people and they want you to give them a show. It’s like saying ‘hey, you are a doctor, please look at my mole’.”
He will be perform in Mumbai on Oct 13.