Why are Some of the People v Reginald D Hunter?
Star Rating: ****
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Review Date: Friday 23rd June 2017
It’s the last week-end of June so it must be time to see Reginald D Hunter. Exactly two years ago I reviewed the penultimate night of his previous tour. Here I was again to review the penultimate night of his tour. Same borough, Hammersmith & Fulham. Different venue. This year he is concluding with two nights at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a slightly smaller venue than Hammersmith Apollo. That may be significant and I’ll return to that later, or it may just be because his fellow American stars, Penn & Teller, are performing a short residency there. These yanks. Coming over here and taking our best venues!
Whilst Reginald D Hunter (RDH) covered familiar serious topics – politics (USA and UK), racism, gender, age, family and faith(briefly) this time he was doing it in a very different manner and that was quite sad to see. Having mastered the art of stand up comedy, RDH was now practicing the art of sit down comedy. Maybe he fancies himself as the next Dave Allen? Ironically, in my review of his last Hammersmith show I referred to the fact that “I think the only thing he didn’t touch upon [in terms of controversial topics] was disability. Maybe that’s for his next tour!”
Well sadly for him he ticks, or should that be two ticks, that box now (one for the Equalities and HR experts) for it’s his own new disability that creates the odd sight of RDH being wheeled out onto stage in a wheelchair, for 3 weeks before this show he broke his leg. That’s taking the old maxim, ‘break a leg’ just a little bit too literally! RDH being RDH he used his newly created disability to form the opening gag of the night, “I thought I’d find out for myself how good your NHS is…. It’s good!”
You soon get used to the sit down RDH as his delivery and ability hold the audience’s rapt attention is second to none. If anything it probably helped sharpen the focus as there was to be none of his usual pacing up and down, not that he does a lot of that anyway. As I say the show covered familiar ground and whilst it was a very good show, there were a few familiar moments in there – talk of his bisexual niece, his sojourn into the daytime world of book, authors and literary agents, his christian brother and his return to his deep Southern American roots to make a show for the BBC. That was fine in the main as these are fascinating stories and the pay off’s are worth it. For instance, it allowed RDH the opportunity to regale, if that’s the right word, the audience with the incredible tale of the agent who’d been married for 45 years, yet whose marriage crumbled to pieces due to the most extraordinary discovery she made.
There’s some fine comedy in this show indeed. Not a little bathos too. It looked like he might break down at one or two moments when recalling his father’s response to his acts of generosity on a recent home visit to see his folks in Georgia, South America. With the amount of racism still prevalent in the States to hear your own folks uttering comments that question whether you earn your good living legitimately must be quite heartbreaking. That said, RDH is pretty famous so can point to countless DVD’s, press and TV appearances to back up that he is probably doing quite well thank you very much.
I thought the material on Trump was a bit so so by RDH’s usual high standard’s and didn’t particularly offer much beyond the usual ‘Oh isn’t Trump an embarrassment fare.’
He mentioned that we should look out for some scandal down the line re German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Whilst that may sound a little far fetched, he reminded us that he did tell us to watch out for Ant n Dec during past shows and that turned out to be true the week before this gig, with the surprise revelation that Ant McPharlan of Ant n Dec fame had checked into rehab for drug addiction.
The show’s title is ‘Some of the People v Reginald D Hunter’. I wonder if that’s a throwback to the furore caused by the Hammersmith show in 2015 when he got heckled by a couple of women for a “rape joke” that they didn’t take too kindly to. That marred the end of what had been a very good show and perhaps this is his way of addressing that on stage.
Maybe this is a reference to those who don’t take to him because of such material and of course the whole “rape joke” furore has divided some comedy audiences in recent years. However, whilst he has a hugely loyal fanbase who want the comedy with a focus on the less frivolous, more serious aspects of life, one can easily see how certain not insignificant sectors of the population (i.e. women) may be v Reginald D Hunter.
For instance, the areas covered are constant – race, rape, gender, failed relationships, the N Word. As always he opens by way of explaining why he uses the N word. Well maybe he could save a few minutes and avoid the controversy by just cutting out the N word. This isn’t America and by and large British audiences don’t want to hear the word. He jokes about crossover audiences but sadly he doesn’t actually have that. His audiences are predominantly (98%) white English men and women. Not even many, if any American’s. It’s not as if there aren’t any in London at any given time. That’s not surprising they’re not at his show as he seems to brands white Americans as racist most of the time. I understand the use of the N word definitely deters what ought to be, arguably, his natural audience of Black Brits, but they’re not attending in any significant numbers either which is a real shame as he has a lot to say on many serious topics that deserve to be heard by a wide range of audiences. RDH has the uncanny knack of being able to be both funny whilst often making a serious point as well.
Then there’s the female audience. Not unexpectedly they’ll not be great fans of so called “rape jokes”. The funny thing is he doesn’t really do rape jokes and the one he told actually was “ironic” and not at all in defence of rape. Quite the opposite.
He tells us that his agent pleaded with him to put some lighter, more fluffy stuff at the end of his show … not just for the fans benefit, but to “reduce the number of letter of complaints” she gets ! he pondered this for a moment on stage as we half-anticipated what he was going to do but he moves on to discuss another heavy topic … Bill Cosby!
RDH seems to have a fascination with the darker side of life, the sexual deviant activities that go on – and that’s not dissimilar to many comedians – Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, to name but two, who also aren’t exactly renowned for doing light and fluffy!! However this is at the expense of showing a lighter side which may be a welcome relief not just to his agent, but his audiences too. Could this be why he’s playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire rather than Hammersmith Apollo?
Nonetheless, it’s the raw, uncompromising, shock comedic material that has made his name, and thought it’s always worth exploring new topics, I don’t see RDH changing any time soon. So some of the People v Reginald D Hunter had, like him, better get used to that, take a seat and enjoy the show.
© Photos and Shepherds Bush Empire Photos – Tiemo Talk of the Town