Wednesday, 27 May 2015

INTERVIEW Reginald D Hunter

IF there’s one word that sums up Reginald D Hunter it would be uncompromising. Known for his deadpan humour, outspoken nature, brutal honesty and willingness to tackle serious and challenging subjects such as race and gender politics head on, he has been making us laugh and courting controversy while doing so for nearly two decades.
He initially came over here from his native Georgia in America to study drama at RADA. However, he didn’t get the work so he turned his attention to stand up and the rest as they say is history.
The 46-year-old award-winning comic and Have I Got News For You regular is currently in the midst of his first stand up tour since 2013 and is coming to the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on June 11.
But while he is full of chat and jokes, delivered in that smooth, velvety and frankly seductive Southern drawl, he is somewhat tight lipped about the contents of the show, The Man Who Attempted To Do As Much As Such.
“You can expect a relentless, humorous intellectual show,” he says when I ask what it’s about and what the cryptic title means.
I press him further for more details but all he’ll say is: “There will be lots of laughing but generally more of the same sort of stuff I’ve done before but a bit different.
"I prefer that you come and see the show and then we can talk about it!”
We chat as he’s taking a break ahead of the Croydon gig and is “somewhere in the north of England” and it's clear he has plenty to say on all manner of subjects and says he's keen to share them with his Croydon audience.
At times he is thoughtful in his answers, at others he is so quick on the quips he renders me unable to speak from laughing so much.
“It’s going good,” he begins enthusiastically. “It’s a grey day but fortunately I’ve brought my own sunshine so it’s looking a lot brighter!”
Known for pushing the boundaries on stage Reginald’s previous tour had its fair share of controversy but far from being bothered about it he brushes it off with his trademark easy charm.
In fact he doesn’t seem to mind about any reaction to his shows, instead he prefers to think of people just “having a bad day” if they don’t get the jokes.
“I just do what I do and often I don’t think I do controversial stuff until people have thought about it and then it’s controversial,” he says.
“I don’t look for it – it comes and finds me!” he adds in mock indignation.
“If it was more than one or two people only watching 10 minutes before storming out of a show then it would be bad,” he adds a tad more seriously.
“But I think in this age people are more willing to be outraged and vent their dissatisfaction, particularly on Twitter or Facebook and it doesn’t matter if it’s valid or not.
“I think the woman who walked out of my show on the last tour, maybe she just had a bad day – it’s hard to care. It don’t bother me. I just do what I do.
“It’s true though that in 2013 I ran into more difficulties than I ever had but it was obviously just my time. This time around it’s been real quiet but we’ve only just started the tour so there’s plenty of time for vitriol!”
Since his last UK tour he has taken time out to film a BBC documentary Songs Of The South where he got to meet and interview blues legend Dr John and to travel around Eastern Europe.
“Moscow and East Europe – now that's a whole other thing,” he chuckles. “I just wanted to go, no other reason.
“I wanted to explore a strange new world, a new life and new comedy venues. I went with an interpreter and ended up in places like Moscow and Serbia.
“I like going away and I wanted an excuse to go to Russia and see for myself if they have got as big a problem as the US government makes out.
“However, a lot of them haven’t heard even about the Cold War.
“But I love being on the road and seeing new places. If you are going to be a social commentator and give your impressions about things then you have to travel and visit these places.”
Coming back to stand up after this period abroad and making his TV series, Reginald says he’s relishing the chance to appear on the British stage again and is looking forward to re-visiting Croydon.
“I came to Croydon on my last tour,” he says. “I decided to play here again because crucially they would have me.
“Plus I had a good time last time and it’s a nice building to withstand the destructive things I might be saying.
“I love stand up,” he adds warmly. “Every time something new works on stage it’s a real high and very satisfying.
“In fact I realised and was reminded the other day of how much I actually love it – although maybe you should ask me at the end of this tour,” he adds chuckling.
And he says after his recent trip away, it’s especially nice to be back on what he considers to be home turf.
“I came to the UK initially to do RADA but secretly in my mind I thought I’d stay a bit longer,” he chuckles.
“I didn’t know what would happen if I went back to America. I suppose I’d have to find a job, deal with the police, stay with the church and get a watermelon stomach.....” he tails off laughing.
“Not being able to find work after RADA made my mind up,” he says. “I wasn’t tall or short enough, I was too dark or too white, someone didn’t like my nose. So I looked for something else and found comedy.
“Stand up is a meritocracy – if you’re funny you will get work. It’s my first love and what I was meant to do and that’s why I’m here. I love you guys!"
So would he ever go back I ask?
“Britain is my real home and my comedy home," he says. "British audiences like to be surprised comedically while Americans just want you to get to the funny part.
“I’m also not a social outcast here because I use words of more than five letters.... it’s one of the things I love about you Brits – that and the way you always find something to do with your comedians – like put them on shows like Have I Got News For You.
“And why everyone asks me about my appraisal of the British sense of humour. I don’t know why y’all have such an obsession about it," he laughs. "Yours is so much better than the Americans’ – it’s so sophisticated, dry and fabulous!”

Reginald D Hunter is at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon on Thursday, June 11. Tickets cost £26.25. Visit or call the box office on 020 8688 9291.

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