rainer holding bethoven

Who on earth is Rainer Hersch?

Rainer Hersch is a comedian and musician who has performed on every major comedy stage in Britain and abroad.  He has appeared thirteen times at the Edinburgh Festival; had numerous comedy-concert series at the South Bank in London; featured in comedy clubs all across Europe and in TV shows around the world.

The Beginning

Rainer's love for comedy and classical music began almost simultaneously, as did his need to share his passion with others.  While still a schoolboy in Kingston-upon-Thames (near London) he developed a keen interest in Monty Python.  He got permission to record their TV shows on the school's clunky video machine and would show them to his friends the following day during lunch break. 

By the age of 12 he had already taken grades in the clarinet but was quickly drawn to the piano which he studied properly from the age of 14.   This led to an obsession with piano music and, ultimately, a school concert society which he organised single-handed - presenting performances by Barry Douglas, later a winner of the Tchaikovsky piano competition, amongst others. 

Economics - Not Music

With the experience of his school concert society and his sights set on a career as an impresario, Rainer studied economics at university - not music.  In his spare time he wrote and directed student revues and continued his piano studies - principally with Norma Fisher but also in masterclasses with  Martino Tirimo and Gwenneth Pryor.  He has also studied conducting privately with various teachers and in masterclasses at the Royal Academy of Music with János Fürst and George Hurst and at Blackheath Conservatory with Denise Ham.

A Career In Comedy

Rainer began his working life in the management of musical arts organisations.  But the comedy had taken a hold and, unknown to his employers, he began moonlighting as a stand-up comedian on the London cabaret circuit.  Short, unpaid slots in small clubs led to longer, paid appearances which in turn gradually developed into a parallel career.

Rainer slowly realised that this was his true vocation and in 1992 he apprehensively gave up his last job with a title, Touring Manager of the London Festival Orchestra, to enter the uncertain world of professional comedy.

"Most of what Rainer Hersch does doesn't bear explaining.  But it will make you laugh" (Orlando Sentinel 1994).

"Rainer Hersch is possibly the best compère I have ever seen": (TNT, London, 1995).

First Solo Shows

His first experiment with the one-man show format was an A to Z of all things British called 'The Massed Bands of the Grenadier Guards and R.A.F. Flypast - plus support' with which he toured the Canadian fringe festivals in 1994.

The following year he produced an hour of straight stand-up, again for Canada, 'Was God British?' and with it a taste of radio success when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recorded the show in its entirety.


A year later, and for the first time in his comedy career, Rainer combined his skills as a stand-up with his music to produce 'All Classical Music Explained' (ACME) - a simple and stupid approach to the difficult subjects "How to play instruments without practicing"; "Why is organ music so boring?" and "What do conductors actually do?"  The result was an immediate hit with all kinds of audiences.  In a 55 date tour across three continents, the show attracted rave reviews. 

"Not since Victor Borge has a musician-comic raised the roof with such continuous laughter" (The Post, Eastern Cape, South Africa July 1996).

Rainer had found his voice.  The sequel to All Classical Music Explained: 'ACME: The Masterclass' built on the success and two years later Rainer developed the idea further using a seven piece orchestra 'The Rainer Hersch Philharmonic' which he conducts and uses to corrupt the classics in his own arrangements. 

"A guaranteed laugh every four bars" (The Scotsman 1999).

He has since used this experience to present full comedy programmes with many orchestras around the world including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the St Petersburg Philharmonic - with whom he appeared in the Grand Hall of the Philharmonic, one of the great Soviet era concert halls.

Radio Series

The All Classical Music Explained theme has also now been turned into a number of radio series for the BBC and Classic FM. In addition, Rainer has become a comic voice - providing witty commentary on things musical for many other BBC radio and TV programmes including over 40 appearances on the classic radio show 'Loose Ends' with Ned Sherrin. Recent radio productions include 'Gershwin's Horns', 'Finding Peter' (a comic analysis of Peter and the Wolf), 'The Smash Hit of 1453' (in which he interviewed Karl Jenkins and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies amongst others), 'The Piano Music of John Cage' and 'Hersch on Herschel' (about the life and work of Rainer's almost namesake, William Herschel).

His various radio series have involved some more serious projects - in 'Rainer Hersch's 20th Century Retrospective' (BBC Radio 3) he recorded what turned out to be the last ever interview with Yehudi Menuhin.


His two documentary series about comedy and classical music 'All The Right Notes, Not Necessarily In The Right Order' (BBC Radio 4) plotted the lives of musical comedians of the past.  Series 1 included a profile of the Danish born entertainer, Victor Borge, with whom Rainer has often been compared.  This programme was the seed for Rainer's first one-man play, now called ‘Rainer Hersch's Victor Borge’ which Rainer first presented with sell-out success at the 2004 Edinburgh Festival, making his debut as an actor.

"It’s hard to imagine that if the great Victor Borge himself had taken the stage, he would be more entertaining that Rainer Hersch’s tear-streaminly funny tribute" (The Scotsman 2004).

Rainer revived the play for Edinburgh 2010 at the New Town Theatre and subsequent tours in the UK and New Zealand.

classic relief

In March 2009, Rainer hosted and conducted two gala comedy concerts in support of Comic Relief - one at the Royal Festival Hall in London and one at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. His guests were some of the great names in classical music including Alfred Brendel, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Nicola Benedetti, Paul Lewis, Piers Lane and the Philharmonia Orchestra - all letting their hair down in aid of a great cause. The London concert was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and filmed by BBC Interactive. Rainer Hersch's April Fools Day Concert is now in it's fifth year.

TV Appearances

On TV Rainer has made guest appearances on lots of programmes including 'Face The Music 2007' (BBC4), 'How Do They Do That?' (ITV 1) and 'The Big Stage' (Channel 5) - and not least with a five week stint as team captain on the daily show 'The Entertainment Game' (BBC1).

Live Shows

Rainer's current solo shows are: 'All Classical Music Explained'; 'Organtastic!'; 'Rainer Hersch's Victor Borge’' and ‘Mozart: Ze Komplete Hystery’. He also has a variety of programmes for full orchestra.

Praise for Rainer Hersch

"Part one-man theatre piece, part live biography, part stand-up, part piano bash and totally terrific" New Zealand Herald (May 2013)

"The success of the show for my money was down to superb comic and musician Rainer Hersch. Once the orchestra had filtered onto the candelabra clad stage and settled, Rainer entered like a crackling fireball of energy. He created an instant rapport with the audience and you felt, here is a man who loves music and wants to share his love and interest with us. Not only was he the conductor of the orchestra but also the conductor of the show and at times the audience too. He was self deprecating, funny, informative and charismatic. If I could have had a music teacher like him I would be a musician today." UK Theatre Network (Jan 2013)

"Victor Borge for a new Generation".  London Times

"At last a musical comedian with a difference - he is really funny".  The London Telegraph

"Splendidly Silly - Britain's new musical guru".  London Time Out

"The world's first classical music hooligan".  Vancouver Sun

"Brilliant timing and killer delivery".  Edmonton Journal

"This truly is comic genius".  See Magazine, Edmonton

"A stroke of comic genius".  Times Colonist, Victoria

"A genius".  Vancouver Sun

"Genius".  The Stage

TourS and international appearances

Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Russia, UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Barbados, The Cayman Islands, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States.

Radio Series and credits

Include: Front Row (BBC Radio 4); The Today Programme (BBC Radio 4); Counterpoint (BBC Radio 4); Quote...Unquote (BBC Radio 4); Broadcasting House (BBC Radio 4); Excess Baggage (BBC Radio 4); Loose Ends (BBC Radio 4) 1996-2003; The Right Note (BBC Radio 4); I'm Glad You Asked Me That (BBC Radio 4); Private Passions (BBC Radio 3); In Tune (BBC Radio 3); Jammin' (BBC Radio 2); Definitely Not the Opera (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Comedy Hour). ‘All The Right Notes, Not Necessarily In The Right Order’ (BBC Radio 4 - Series 1 Sep 2002; Series 2 Jan 2006). Rainer Hersch's 'Club Mozart' (Classic FM - Dec 2001; Apr 2002; Aug 2002). Quando, Quando, Quando (BBC Radio 4 - Nov 1999). Rainer Hersch's 20th Century Retrospective (BBC Radio 3 - Dec 1998). Rainer Hersch's All Classical Music Explained (BBC Radio 4 - Oct 1998)

TV Credits

Include: See Hear (BBC 2); The World Stands Up (Paramount Comedy Channel); Carlton Stand-Up for the Homeless (ITV);  The Big Stage (Channel 5); Team Captain with The Entertainment Game (BBC1 - 23 shows); How Do They Do That (ITV); Selina Scott (BskyB); The Big Breakfast (Channel 4); Quatsch (Pro Sieben - Germany).


Rainer Hersch lives in London with his wife, Connie, and dog, Ted.  For the latest information about him and his doings, click on ‘Rainer’s Ruminations


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Copyright ©2009-2014 Rainer Hersch. Comedian and Classical Musician from Britain. management@masterpiece.me.uk