Reginald D Hunter: Comic of Consequence
I grew up as a stand-up in Britain, so I don't have that quick, quick pace that a lot of the other guys in America have. I have a sound; I'm slow, like smooth jazz.
Reginald D Hunter must be drinking his Lucozade, because the man is all about edge. Not only is he one of the top comedians doing the stand-up circuit in Britain these days, but he's deadly serious about what tickles his funny bone. Born and bread in Georgia, Hunter cut his comedic teeth in the UK, and British audiences love his relaxed, "keep it real" style. "Being edgy means getting over something, whatever frightens you the most," he says over a cigarette while some brainless film retrospective plays on in the background. "You have to keep it simple and just be funny." His ever-changing routine has spawned several successful full-length, award-winning comedy shows at the Edinburgh Festival, including A Mystery Wrapped in a Nigga, White Woman and last year's Pride and Prejudice and Niggas. Hunter, gearing up for this year's festival show, Fuck You in the Age of Consequence, says he has no real formula for how he creates a set. "Finally at the end of a tour, I find an end to the show. It has to be striking for me first, and then it can go in a show." Amid the cries of "Sieg heil" blasting from the television, Hunter goes on to say why he has chosen such controversial titles for his headlining shows. "The title is comedy and should represent something of your comedy, it should be funny, and if it can, have a little bit of edge in it."
As for his British beginnings as a student at the acclaimed Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Hunter is baldly honest. "I just wanted to get the fuck out of Georgia," he begins, before being distracted by the opening strains of D. W. Griffith's notorious Birth of a Nation on the idiot box behind him. "I talked about this in White Woman. They black up this guy and he rapes a white woman, and dig this, she knows she's been soiled by this beast, and as her southern belle duty, she commits suicide." Hunter laughs at this, and when asked about reactions to his stand-up back in the nation that gave birth to him, he grows serious. "There was less certainty. They would laugh, but they would laugh cautiously. It was like I was a foreigner who didn't speak the same language." He's extremely open about the differences between British and American audiences and though he performed Stateside for the first time last year, feels he understands their more reluctant responses. For one thing, politics in Hunter's home state of Georgia are entirely different. "They were like, 'Did he just say hating gay people is bad?'" He performed the show in Atlanta, where "half the folks were trendy rednecks and the other half were religious black folks that my family brought." He claims the reason he is so popular in Britain is the same reason he is received so lukewarmly in America. "I grew up as a stand-up in Britain, so I don't have that quick, quick pace that a lot of the other guys in America have. I have a sound; I'm slow, like smooth jazz."
When Hunter first began doing stand-up he claims he shied away from the issues that fire his comedic imagination today, and blames many young comedians for doing the same. "I'm going to take all the interesting things about myself, and I'm going to leave those out; I'm going to make jokes about airplane food." While race, sex, and what not to say to people in Marks and Spencer are part of Hunter's life and inform his comedy, he is careful to refute any claims of misogyny or racism, both on his part and that of his audience. He has been accused of both, by the press and people who have seen his shows, but says he is happy to create debate, rather than dodge what is important to him. "It's like I'll be doing my thing and I'll look over and see in the audience people that are a little too comfortable, a little too smug. I can't let them get away with this; they can't come out the same way they came in, no!"
Talking with Reginald D Hunter the man shows him to be introspective, charming, forthcoming, and effortlessly funny, with Hunter frequently turning an answer into a hilarious anecdote. Listening to Reginald D Hunter the stand-up isn't all that different. The same elements of emotional honesty, concerns about societal conventions, racial bugaboos, and up-to-the-minute social commentary co-exist in his stand-up, and all the man had to do was step up to the microphone and say "How is everybody doing?" to have the whole room laughing in anticipation. Hunter's style can be classed as observational, but it's so much more than that. It's as if he is able, through his stand-up, to take all the social ills of society and render them harmless and ridiculous. His style, and the subsequent audience reaction, give credence to his claim that "You just got to know how to talk to people." And Reginald D Hunter is walking the walk and talking the talk on the edge of a very successful comedy career.
Reginald D Hunter - Fuck You in the Age of Consequence, Udderbelly 22:10, 2 Aug- 27 Aug (excl 15,22)