Reginald D Hunter – Live Review – York Grand Opera House
By Roger Crow, June 2017
For years Reginald D Hunter has been adding his effortless cool to British panel games and stand-up shows. Georgia’s most famous comedy export also made the excellent Reginald D Hunter’s Songs of the South, the BBC Two series which saw him examine music in the US.
I’ve been looking forward to his stand-up gig for months, but when news arrives that he’s broken his leg, I wonder if his show will go ahead in York. Of course Reg has been looking forward to the gig a lot longer than me, and armed with painkillers and a wheelchair, he carries on regardless.
But first we’re treated to excellent Canadian comedian Glenn Wool. Imagine if elements of Jack Black, Meat Loaf, John Goodman and Bill Hicks had been put into a computer, Glenn would be the 3D-printed, walking, talking, and mostly shouting result.
“Energy dips at points”
He has a microphone. Most of the time he doesn’t need it, projecting to the back of the theatre like Noddy Holder moonlighting as a town crier. His material does the perfect job of shocking, amusing and warming up the masses for the main event. By the time Reg is wheeled on stage, we’re ready for more laughs and plenty of them.
He does not disappoint. There’s the inevitable gags about POTUS, and his instant apology for Trump’s presidency. It’s the easiest gag for any US comic on UK soil, but it gets a huge laugh, while refusing to discuss the details of how he broke his leg generates more titters.
RDH’s ability to ’summon’ racists on Twitter so he can help work on his material also creates plenty of giggles. Obviously most stand-ups work a stage like prowling tigers, working off that nervous energy. Confined to a chair for the duration, bizarrely Reg reminds me of Cyril Fletcher on That’s Life, dispensing anecdotes. I half expect him to hand over to Esther Rantzen at one point. Now that would have been an interesting surprise guest.
There’s no getting around the fact the star of the show is in a lot of pain, so the energy in the room dips at certain places. Some comedians compare gigs to rounding up sheep, and at certain points he struggles to stay focused, so the ’sheep’ start to wander.
“Intelligent, eloquent magnetism”
It doesn’t help that one guy thinks it’s fine to spend part of the show surfing the web on his phone. Few things get me more annoyed these days, but after a few weeks of shocking, depressing news, the gags do a great job of diffusing all that built-up tension. As an audience, we probably needed these laughs more than we realised.
It’s not a perfect gig, but given the circumstances Reg does a terrific job. The show must go on, and I could listen to Hunter read the ingredients of a cereal packet, he has that intelligent, eloquent magnetism that proves compelling.
I’d love to see him again when he’s fully mended and focused, but Reg’s observations about Brexit and life in the UK after living here for years are a fascinating take on something many of us take for granted.
And sometimes that’s all we need for a great, live comedy show: unpredictability, a great comic, and the ability to laugh at ourselves.