I booked to see this Reginald D Hunter show months and months ago, on the strength of his occasional appearances on Have I Got News For You, where he always seems to be extremely wry and perceptive. One of the points he made early on in this show was that he wanted to get one thing straight – Stand-up is Art, TV is Business. So I wondered whether his stand-up persona would be any different from his TV one.
The answer is, no not really. He comes over as extremely thoughtful on TV and I found his stand-up routine enormously so. He takes philosophical thoughts and explores them through comic material as though for the first time he’s ever thought about them. The result of this is not so much a guffaw-packed, non-stop-laugh-out-loud evening, more a personal feeling-one’s-way-step-by-step session about all the frustrating and negative aspects of life.
He frequently employs a very effective comic device of departing on a long, sensitive and thought-provoking assessment of a particular subject, which you go along with, actually making you think along with him, and either agreeing with him or coming to your own conclusions; only to have it punctured by an unexpectedly funny/ inappropriate/ nonsensical observation at the end. That doesn’t sound very funny on paper (or on computer screen, I guess); but it does work really well.
A gauge I sometimes adopt to decide to what extent I like a performer is, would I like to go out for a drink with this person? The answer is yes, I would definitely like to go out for a drink with Reginald D Hunter. It would be intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking as well as having a light humorous touch. Unlike some other comics I’ve seen recently, I think he would be really non-egocentric.
One thing about him, which I feel I ought to comment on, is his regular use of the “N” word, despite the fact that he says he doesn’t want to offend middle class white people who normally quake if they hear it. It’s great when someone takes a taboo and, through the means of drama or comedy, forces you to consider it in a different way. There is no way that I would use the “N” word, but I quickly felt comfortable with his use of it, because he took the time to, rather innocently, explain what he means by it. For him, it means no more or less than “chap” or “guy”. So if you’ve read that he’s offensive because of this word, and you feel you might not have the stomach for the experience, I would happily suggest you think again.
If I were to be critical, I could suggest there is almost slightly too much philosophy and not quite enough comedy. As a result, much of the evening is spent in thoughtful reflection about what he is saying as opposed to constantly laughing at them. But it’s an interesting and unusual approach, and it works, more BBC4 than ITV2, if you get my drift. I found him likeable and honest, and all in all it was a very entertaining evening.
He is supported by comic Steve Hughes who very much reminded me of my Australian brother-in-law, whom you probably haven’t met, so that might not help you much. Imagine you have an Australian brother-in-law. Well Steve Hughes is like him. I enjoyed his observations about life in hotels and service stations, and his nostalgic account of how Australia took to Boy George in the early 1980s goes along with Mrs Chrisparkle’s own childhood recollections. Steve Hughes came across as a good laugh and served as an excellent comedy chaser.