Reginald D Hunter – In The Midst of Crackers ***** 5/5
Thursday 9th May 2013
‘In the Midst of Crackers’ is on tour until 30th November 2013. Tour details and tickets available here
Reginald D Hunter
In the midst of crackers. Interesting title. Is Reginald D Hunter (RDH) referring to his audience as crackers or is the audience in the midst of a crackers performer? Let’s find out shall we.
An 80 minute performance, without interval, from Reginald D Hunter (RDH) showcased once again why he is one of Britain’s most controversial and thought provoking Comedians. OK, he is still American, but after 8 years here I think we have legal rights to him now America. Let’s not argue about this. OKAY.
A wide ranging routine covered familiar ground of relationships, racism, his recent spot of bother with the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), movies, Mrs Thatcher, sex, sexism, football and politics.
The opening act Pete Johansson (review below) was very thought provoking and brutally honest and frank with his material. RDH continued in much the same vein with his brand of edgy, dark comedy. Fortunately, like Pete, RDH has the happy knack and skill of making the serious both funny and thoughtful at one and the same time. This is one of the things that makes seeing his latest show a “must see” and contributes to making him stand out from many other comedians. He might mine some of the same areas but he always has his own particular RDH, American spin on it.
RDH is an avid film viewer, which came across well in his humorous references to ‘Skyfall’ and ‘The Iron Lady’ about the late Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. He talked about his fascination with this film and the PM in his last tour and referred to her passing as he’d been asked a lot about it.
As usual RDH is startlingly open and candid on stage. RDH is truly the thinking man’s and woman’s comedian. There’s a rawness and pathos that comes across in his joke telling that holds the audience spellbound. He’s not afraid to take his audience on a journey which at times feels like a confessional that makes you think and consider not only RDH’s life, but also your own at the same time. He is a RADA educated Actor and that RADA taught ability to project and command the stage comes through loud and clear in a way that many a non-thespian would admire.
The wonderful thing is that RDH is not afraid to truly open up and is more than comfortable portraying himself as the bad guy if that happens to be the case. The truth is more important than presenting himself as the hero.
I enjoyed his ad hoc questioning of the audience. Unfortunately for RDH the questions were perhaps just a little too near the knuckle to achieve the meaningful, honest participation he sought which is a shame. Maybe asking for the house lights to go up was a step too far as it made the audience feel more self-conscious, when as audience members, most prefer just to quietly blend in and not be part of the show. Nonetheless, these were quite interesting questions thrown out as a means of examining gender differences and politics in a subtle, deep, but very funny way.
Psychotherapists come in for a bit of stick and praise too. It’s ironic that in a week that Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Health, Diane Abbott MP, delivered a speech (16th May 2013) saying that ‘masculinity is in crisis’, that RDH touched on this very theme. It’s here that the crackers element of the show kicks in. He starts to question the value of psychotherapists. Why would you pay someone to listen to your problems he asks? Many people get things off their chests and out of their system over a drink with friends he asserts.
However, he correctly identifies that one key difference is that our friends and family will treat us differently, perhaps more sympathetically, than a “professional listener” such as a psychotherapist. I think all too many men do not really talk to one another in an open, frank and honest way. Women seem to find this comes more naturally to them. They gain and develop from this, for example through finding solutions to their problems. Men are missing something by being so judgemental and less than candid with one another. Men feel that they have to portray a certain front. Confidence. To not do so is perceived as a weakness. Or at least men think it will be. Perhaps their male friends and colleagues won’t be so judgemental.
This is one of the reasons influential leaders such as Diane Abbott MP says men are in crisis. Maybe RDH gets a therapeutic benefit from touring a show and opening up, challenging himself and his audience to be more open and open minded to new ideas and fresh ways of looking at things.
Mind you, that sometimes goes too far. Some of the sexual fetish’s he’d been asked to engage in were so far past freakish as to be virtually sickening. Nasty!
Racism, the PFA and the ‘N’ word
On this matter he spoke at some length. This show took place exactly one week into the start of his tour and just 11 days after he delivered his controversial performance at the PFA awards at the Grosvenor Hotel, London on 28th April 2013. Naturally I was very curious to hear what he had to say about this as so much has been written, yet no footage of the set has been aired on TV and none of his jokes have been quoted in the press. Was it a storm in a tea cup or was the negative coverage merited?
For me, the answer’s two fold. I’m reasonably satisfied with the explanation RDH gave re his account of the night and the jokes he told. The Suarez one was quite good. Not earth shatteringly funny, but funny enough and whilst not on message in FA terms, what can you expect from a comedian? I think the FA over reacted with the 10 match suspension for the offence by Suarez and RDH made the same point in a very humorous way. Click Suarez link if you’d like to read my review of that particular scandal.
One of the problems with the PFA, RDH asserted was that it is run by white people who don’t understand racism and what it is to be racist. Ironically the PFA bosses are even divided on the furore. Chief Executive Gordon Taylor said he was fine with RDH’s performance and that it wasn’t a problem, yet the PFA Chairman Clarke Carlisle was livid and apologised profusely for the booking of RDH.
The point RDH made is perhaps correct as on its own the utterance of the N word per se isn’t a racist act. It is not illegal. It all depends on context and who is using the word.
The ‘N’ – Word
Re the N word. His explanation makes sense. You’ll have to see the show to get the full explanation, but suffice to say, as anyone who’s followed RDH’s career over the past 8+ years, that word is just a natural part of his vocabulary. He means no harm by it and of course he’s not racist. It is simply a word he uses.
The problems for RDH though are many and varied. Firstly, he totally disrespected his paymasters for this particular prestigious corporate gig. English football has struggled to deal with racism for decades. Initially from the fans on the terraces. That’s generally a battle that’s been won. More recently it’s been struggling to manage and deal with instances of racism between footballers on the football pitch. For that reason to then go on and profusely use the N word would naturally have been seen as a biting the hand that feeds you.
People were offended. We don’t know how many or if it was mainly just the PFA chiefs. The point is they are trying to stamp out racism. Stamp out the use of derogatory language from the terraces and on the pitch. Players have been fined £thousands and banned for 5 games plus for using the N word, so it beggars belief (a) that they booked a Comedian that uses that word as naturally as breathing and (b) that RDH considered it OK to use the word on this occasion.
At a gig such as tonight’s most present “get it” as it’s in context, makes sense and is actually inoffensive. It’s his take on the word. He’s having a laugh and making people laugh. No bad thing in itself. To be frank, the use of the N word was one of the least controversial things he said on stage all night.
Secondly, what can be explained away in 5-10 minutes at a comedy gig is not so easily understood in newsprint and so it played out publicly very, very badly for him and the PFA.
Black community reaction
Thirdly, there’s another constituency aside from the PFA and media also detesting that word and they won’t have been at the PFA awards. That is the Black community of Britain. RDH has talked in the past about wanting to see more Black people at his gigs. At the 856 seater Alban Arena I spotted not more than a handful of Black people. That’s common at most RDH gigs I attend. By and large Black British people simply hate the use of the word. Hate hearing it. They are voting with their feet by not attending his gigs (although I don’t think that is the only reason). Which is a real shame as this isn’t what a RDH gig is about. I’ve purposely left this till last to reflect that fact it was just not that big a deal. In an 80 minute show (1 hour 50m including Pete) the time spent uttering the N word was under one minute. We need to have some perspective on this.
RDH might do well to take note of a comment Arsenal Manager made with reference to the return of Manchester United Striker and ex-Arsenal player, Robin Van Persie, this season. “First of all I am French and work in England and I want the English traditions to be respected. When you work somewhere abroad, you have to respect the culture of the country.”
If he really wants more Black people to attend his shows he has to address this for, whether he means to or not, he is offending the Black community. Writers such as myself are much more open minded and know there’s a lot more to his shows than that that and attend. Many alas choose not to give him the benefit of the doubt.
There are other words Reg could use. How about ‘cats?’ It’s a very American word to describe people and would still have meaning. In a recent interview with Nina Kristofferson she explained that she could have used the N word in her current show ‘Nina Kristofferson’s Billie Holiday Story’ but finds the word personally offensive and didn’t want anything to detract from the story, so substituted Cats for the N word. No offense. No loss of meaning. Packed houses and plenty of Black folks at her show. Result.
On the subject of the FA, RDH made some thought provoking and unusual comments. He asserted that for many men football is their religion, the religion of the masses so to speak. The FA is trying to control it, the language of football, the behaviour of fans and player alike via their guidelines, regulations and pronouncements.
Some of his audience banter was good natured, if a little self-indulgent when he praised attractive women and moved on – without punch line or jokes to go with the praise.
At the start, I questioned whether the show’s title, ‘In the midst of crackers’ related to RDH referring to his audience as being crackers or was the audience in the midst of a crackers performer?
Well I certainly don’t think he’s knocking his fans. Then again they say 1:4 people have a mental health disorder … Though some of the things he says sound crackers, I definitely don’t think he’s barmy. Far from it in fact. Essentially, RDH is a cracking comedian cracking jokes for a living. Nothing more. Nothing less. Well, as you will have gathered from this review and his past tours, actually there is a lot more to a RDH gig than pure jokes, but nevertheless, he never forgets the reason people attend his gigs is for a good laugh and he delivers those by the truck load.
‘In the Midst of Crackers’ is on tour until x date 2013. Tour details and tickets available here
Canadian support act Pete Johansson was one very funny guy. In a very thoughtful, funny set, he had the audience in fits of laughter. He gained some chuckles with his pronunciation of certain words and his keen observational eye gained from touring all over England.
There was much talk of family in his set. He comes from a large family but hates babies. Very funny. He covered culture, racism, gender politics, sexism, poverty and homophobia in a very funny and at times challenging way.
His mind and set seems to be racing ahead at 100mph. I think his set could benefit from a slower delivery. He had a good 30 minutes on stage. There’s no need for him to rush everything out at breakneck speed. Or should that be redneck speed! He was highly amusing on his riffs based on what might be lurking away in the 1% of his brain which is “redneck” stemming from his Father’s bigotry and his Canadian upbringing.
Like RDH, Pete comes across as an affable, very deep thinker, yet still hilariously funny. I love the fact RHD isn’t afraid to share the stage with such talented performers.
I look forward to seeing Pete Johansson again. He is on tour with Reginald D Hunter until 30th November 2013. Information and tickets available here.
©Tiemo Talk of the Town
2nd June 2013
Reginald D Hunter will be a nominee for ‘Best Male Comedian’ and ‘Best International Comedian’ in The Black Comedy Awards 2013.
For news about the Black Comedy Awards 2013 nominations and awards ceremony please keep an eye on this Blog as well as www.tiemo.co.uk where news and information on the awards will be posted in due course.