TV & Showbiz
Reginald D Hunter talks going back to stand-up, Manchester, British vs American crowds and ‘seeing through bulls***’
A very funny man with a lot to say but still a lot less than all the bullsh***ers, thankfully.
If you’ve been a fan of stand-up comedy in the past 20 or so years, or even seen the odd panel show here and there during that time, the name Reginald D Hunter will no doubt mean something to you.
Born in Georgia but made here in the UK — and we don’t think it’s any stretch of the imagination to say that — Reginald Darnell Hunter (about as formal as this is going to get) is pretty much comedy royalty at this point, not only making Britain his home more than 20 years ago but becoming a household name.
Appearing on countless TV shows over the years and sitting as one of the most highly-revered and decorated comics on the circuit to this day, Reg is now back out on tour for the first time in two years since his return after Covid and, naturally, he’s coming to Manchester.
Ahead of his double-header at the HOME theatre, cinema and arts space on First Street this month, we had the opportunity to chat with the comedy veteran about all things funny and serious, which kind of encapsulates his upcoming show by the sounds of it. There’s some of his usual scything social commentary and there’s some of this:
So you’re heading back out on a UK and Ireland tour, you’re adopted home. You’ve been here for a long time now but how excited are you to be back out on tour on this sort of scale?
Very. I think my last one was a year or two ago, my first major one back after the lockdown, and I’m very pleased to be back. It’s always more fun to do stand-up when you know you got something in your pocket.
I mean, the title alone grabbed our attention: ‘The Man Who Could See Through Shit’. Can you tell us a little bit more about the concept?
Yeah, well, my mother [Lucille] used to say “It’s easy to see through shit, the hard part is pretending that you haven’t”, and I tie that in with being 54; the older you get, the harder it is not to see through shit.
Yeah, I’ve seen you say before that nothing still gets you more excited than knowing that you’ve got good material ready to go, so what’s the idea around this current stuff — is different to previous stuff or more of a continuation?
Man, I tell you what, it’s a big difference between standing there and dealing with people and you know, you ain’t got none, rather than knowing you’ve got something good in your pocket, so yeah, I’m not going to have to rope-a-dope much this year — I’ve got plenty of bombs as I call them.
Nice. So when you say ‘seeing through sh**’, do you mean like everyday BS or bigger picture, socio-political stuff?
All of the above. I found that in the last two or three weeks, it’s getting harder and harder to not talk about Israel but obviously, the first goal is to be humorous and when you do rant you want to be in control of it and make it a good one.
I feel like I might be ranting more in this show and, you know, a good rant is supposed to be authentically angry but also coherent and hilarious, so we’ll see what happens.
So we can expect some big, passionate monologues then maybe?
You know what, you can expect what you like but all I’ll tell you is it’s gonna be funny and I’m going to put some people under pressure and I know that some people are going to get upset.
The thing is, the stuff that they’re going to get upset about is maybe not what they or even I think they’re going to get upset about — It never is. All you have to do is just be honest.
We [comedians] call it ‘HHV’: head, heart and balls, and if you use your head, heart and balls when you’re talking, you know, you gonna rub somebody wrong.
You’ve lived and worked here for over two decades now, smashed the Edinburgh Festival, won two Perrier awards and become comedy royalty around over here — what is it that you think sets British crowds apart from American ones?
Attention span [he laughs]. Brits have not been as detrimentally affected by commercials as Americans and then if you add to the TikTok generation on top of that, people need you to kind of get to it and the punchline quicker.
I remember you once said, “America and Britain have both lost their minds”; is that something that you still believe and what do you think is the main difference between our respective madnesses?
I can’t remember where I said that but it does sound like something I would have said, but I often tell British people to think of America as your baby brother with a loaded gun.
What about like culturally and socially — have you ever found, say, just being sat around the pub with Brits compared to how you would with Americans as a source of comedy?
You know, years ago a buddy of mine from Georgia came over and toured around with me and one night I invited him over to meet some friend of mine for a smoke and he said, “No, I don’t smoke with you and them British people no more.”
I asked why and he said, “Back home we smoke to laugh, get sleepy and get high. You and them British people smoke and y’all want to talk about the EU and Israel and art — I don’t know how to do that.”
So yeah, I like being in Britain because there’s a natural appreciation for complexity. Americans tend to always want to simplify things and when you always want to simplify things, then you’ll shy away from complexity. I feel like I can be a bit more detailed in my work over here.
I almost feel like over here my setups are just as important as the punchline over here.
Since we’re talking about how different audiences take different material, how would you describe your style at the moment and do you feel like it’s changed at all?
I don’t really know. I will never have the experience of watching myself live, obviously, but I know the jokes are fun to tell at the moment.
Sometimes when you’re doing the show, you know, you have your favourite jokes and you might be two jokes away from one of them, but so far I’d say the show at this point is about 78% ready and I think all of the jabs here are serious jabs at the moment.
I mean, even if people haven’t seen your live acts before, you’ve been on countless panel shows down the years, is that something you enjoyed and did you have one you preferred?
I will say it’s about panel shows, sometimes people will come because they see [my stand-up] because of the panel shows but the thing is when you sit at somebody else’s table, then you act a certain way, but when it’s your table, you be whatever way you like. It’s all television and none of them were my show.
Fair enough. So you’re coming to Manchester with two dates at the HOME Theatre. Is it a venue you’re familiar with and do you have any standout comedy memories from here in the past?
Yeah, this will be the first one here in a while that we aren’t going to The Lowry, but I’ve been to so many venues and, honestly, it’s often only after I turn up that I go, ‘Oh, yeah, I know how to do this place.’
I did request that of my promotion team after the last tour where I was playing some really big, cavernous places. I’m real particular about sound and if I don’t sound good to myself, something in me just thinks says, ‘Hey, let’s just go home.’
When the sound is good and it’s intimate, I like to be able to use all the tools at my disposal; my facial expressions, noises and other more slight things, so yeah I feel in more intimate venues it plays more to my advantage.
But yeah, the Comedy Store is great and The Lowry is a great theatre: it’s like a big room but when you’re talking the feel and the sound is like you’re taking a warm bath in the sunshine. I’ve also found that a lot of your music venues have really great sound too — often better than theatres do.
No, but what I have picked out is that I get asked that kind of question all the time over here. It’s always a version of ‘What do you think about this regional sense of humour?’ and the same when you go to Wales and Scotland and Ireland.
I don’t notice Americans doing that as much, so I’ve come to relate that to a sort of cultural self-esteem, you know? Like someone was asking, ‘You think we’re cute? Do you think we’re funny?’ and it’s even more so over in Australia. It’s almost as if Australia wants to be Britain.
I remember I did the Sydney Comedy Festival and I joked that in Australia “you have all the weather and the fashion of Britain but none of the literature.”
I guess a lot of people in their regions want to be seen as something vital and necessary but I find a lot of the differences that people up North feel compared to another village 15 miles away can be utterly ridiculous.
Fair enough, what about sort of, um, maybe the political differences across the UK, is that something you still like to touch on in your comedy?
I’ve found this time around that with places I go I’m more interested in that country’s politics than I used to be when I passed through.
I did two gigs back to back where I went from Northern Ireland down to the Republic of Ireland and I said, “It’s great to be back in Ireland!”. Safe to say they got upset about that. I’m very sorry, I didn’t realize that I was no longer in ‘original recipe’ Ireland.
It can sometimes kind of be the same in America. In the South, a lot of rednecks are just racists who are still pissed off about the Civil Way: they’re not going to let that go ever — I mean, there are even people in the South who still get mad when you mention Abraham Lincoln.
But in the US with regional attitudes, they sometimes say ‘There’s New York and LA and everything else in between’. There are still some biases and regional differences but I find that most people and most groups who believe or act like they’re superior, when you get to know them, they have no reason to be.
Brilliant stuff. And last but not least, do you have a favourite joke you’ve heard at the moment?
The joke is: one day, a dog walks into a bar, and he says to the bartender, ‘Give me a martini with an onion, not an olive.’ The bartender says, ‘Oh, a talking dog — maybe we should get you in touch with the circus, and the dog says, ‘Why? They need an electrician.’
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As always with good comedy, it was about the delivery, but it felt only fitting that we ended a very lengthy chat with a very intelligent and incisive comic with such an innocent and absurd joke out of left field that we very nearly spat our water all over the screen mid-Zoom call.
Reg’s latest has already been hailed “stand-up coolest customer” by The Telegraph following his new show, with The Times dubbing ‘The Man Who Could See Through Shit‘ as “comedy of a rare score” and from the few breadcrumbs he gave us in our chat, it’s safe to say he’s piqued our interest.
If you fancy catching Reginald D Hunter here in Manchester, he’s playing at the HOME Theatre on Sunday and Monday, 12-13 November. You can grab your tickets HERE.
We can assure you he’ll deliver a thought-provoking set to remember.
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Featured Images — Reginald D Hunter (via Instagram)/ HOME MCR