Comedy Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

02/05/2013 - 11/05/2013

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details

British Musical Comedian Brings Two Shows to Auckland For NZ International Comedy Festival 

British musical comedian Rainer Hersch brings two hit shows to Auckland in May as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.  

Former Touring Manager of the London Festival Orchestra, Rainer Hersch gave up his high pressure job in 1992 to make a profession out of his hobby – stand-up comedy.  He has been poking fun and getting his audiences to see the funny side of classical music ever since. 

Hersch’s solo show Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge is on at the Comedy Chamber, Auckland Town Hall from 2-11 May.  On Sunday 12 May he leads members of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in Rainer Hersch Meets The APO.  

In Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge – the man, the music and the comedy – Hersch skilfully retells the story of Danish/American conductor, pianist and funnyman Victor Borge, with whom he is often compared. In a remarkable turn of events, Borge fled the Nazi regime in Europe, going on to become the highest paid entertainer, and according to The New York Times, the “funniest man in the world”. This season, audiences can expect plenty of clowning around and onstage antics as Hersch plays the role of both himself and Borge in the biographical show which sold out its 2012 run in London’s West End and festivals from Edinburgh to Adelaide. 

Rainer Hersch Meets The APO is a one night only, laugh-out-loud performance where Rainer the conductor tackles all the pressing questions audiences are too shy to ask: What are they singing about in opera? Why is organ music so boring?  Is it hard to play the triangle? Rainer and members of the APO have some great music and all the entertaining answers as they debunk myths around classical music to prove how silly, stupid and ripe to have the mickey taken out of it, the whole business is.

A classically trained pianist and conductor, Rainer Hersch has become an acclaimed comedian, writer and performer. He is based in London and tours all over the world either in his solo shows or with guest musicians, his own madcap, eight-piece band, and full symphony orchestras. Hersch writes columns for newspapers and magazines, has starred in many TV and radio series for the BBC and has toured extensively across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. 

Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge
the Comedy Chamber, Auckland Town Hall
Thursday 2 to Saturday 11 May.

Rainer Hersch Meets The APO
the Comedy Chamber, Auckland Town Hall
Sunday 12 May at 3pm.

Book by phoning 0800 BUY TICKETS (289 842) or www.buytickets.co.nz 

‘Splendidly silly – Britain’s new musical guru’ –London Time Out  

Victor Victorious

Review by Sharu Delilkan 03rd May 2013

It was sad to see the sparse turnout for what proved to be a truly professional show – something that Rainer Hersch picked up on and immediately incorporated wittily into his slick intro.

His candour with the audience from the get-go about his inspiration to create a show around Victor Borge – more out of curiosity rather than initial idolising – set the stage beautifully for this personal account. He admits that after repeated comparison to Borge, in response to his own BBC show, he felt compelled to research the Danish musician who ran away from the Nazis to ultimately become the world’s highest-paid entertainer during the 1960s. In addition to taking us on an historic journey, it was this personal journey of discovery that gave the entire show authenticity. [More]


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Hilarious and moving homage

Review by Nik Smythe 03rd May 2013

The moment I saw this production advertised in the Festival programme I was online to the editor for the job of reviewing it.  Like anyone who’s ever experienced his work, I love Victor Borge to the point where the idea of anyone disliking him seems improbable.  And I have a more personal connection too, as related many times to family guests by my mother:

The way she tells it, I was mere moments away from being born in the hospital waiting room because of him.  Just as her contractions reached the point where it was time to drive to hospital, a Victor Borge TV special came on and she refused to leave until it was finished and her laughter had subsided enough that she could walk to the car. 

Even though I’m merely the MacGuffin in that story, I still relish any opportunity to relate it with egocentric pride.  And now here I am, telling my story in a review of possibly the world’s only British-German comedian, Rainer Hersch, telling his own story of how he in turn came to learn of Victor Borge and his story, which he also tells.  Needless to say, enough about me.

Rainer Hersch is himself a classical music comedian, a profession he happened into as Borge himself had some fifty years earlier.  It seems absurd that Hersch had in fact never heard of Borge until he inevitably came to be repeatedly compared to him in the reviews for his own shows.  It took him still longer to actually listen to some of his extensive recorded repertoire, setting a course in motion that patently led to his mounting of this admirably reverent tribute.

Hersch spends forty percent or so as himself, regaling us with his own journey to reach this point, and also throwing in a few tastes of his own independent morsels of musical humour.  The rest of the time he’s Victor, and while his visage isn’t a precise mirror, his grin and the twinkle in his eye along with his accent, tone and metre are pitch perfect, even down to the subtle distinctions between young and old Borge.

So much of Borge’s humour hinges on the other shoe dropping: “My grandfather gave me this watch, just before he died.  For twenty bucks.”  The dulcet solemnity of such a setup intensifies the punchline’s mirth.  Then, in judiciously placed scenes in which Hersch as Borge describes the tragic moments that marked significant turning points in his life, the punchline never comes and the lack of it in turn amplifies the unexpected pathos.

As well as eliciting constant merriment with his timeless routines – I’ve seen much of his material countless times over and still laugh out loud – for many people Borge is their first introduction to the rich world of classical music.  This in spite of the ironic fact that his two most famous pieces are not at all musical: ‘Phonetic Punctuation’ and ‘Inflationary Language’.

Victor Borge was not entirely a Saint, just mostly.  He was successfully sued for plagiarising his phonetic punctuation routine, had an unashamed love for money, and more than his share of the ladies if legend be true. 

But he will always be remembered for bringing joy and light into the minds and hearts of hundreds of millions.  One of Hersch’s primary motivations for this entire hilarious and moving homage is to disprove Borge’s own assertion that as big as he is now (at one time the world’s highest paid entertainer!), in fifty years he’ll be forgotten.

Surely Not!  I’m actually rather baffled that this opening night in the Comedy-nee-Concert Chamber is less than half full.  Sure there’s plenty else on, but this is an internationally acclaimed comedian doing Victor Borge for Heaven’s sakes!

As the actual legendary, one-of-a-kind Great Dane passed away in December 2000 I daresay this is the closest available option on offer for getting to see the man himself.


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