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Close to the Reg
He’s been dubbed the Samuel L Jackson of comedy. Craig Fitzpatrick pulls up a stool for a chat with the coolest man in stand-up, REGINALD D. HUNTER
Craig Fitzpatrick, 16 Jun 2010
The Samuel L Jackson of the stand-up scene? Perhaps. Reginald D. Hunter, however, remains indifferent to the endless ‘coolest man in comedy’ quotes that are thrown his way. Not cool, he reckons, but indifferent. “It’s a nice thing to say. I think sometimes people confuse cool with indifference. I’m probably one of the more indifferent men in comedy. Cool and indifferent are close cousins, but they ain’t the same thing.”
Thing is, as he speaks, his easy demeanour and Deep South drawl only serve to undermine his argument. He is smooth. You would know that boom of a voice – that laid back presence – anywhere. Or more specifically, you should know it from his appearances on shows such as QI and Have I Got News For You. These invariably find Hunter cast as the black American outsider constantly bemused by, and challenging, the social quirks and prejudices he encounters in the UK.
“I think the best comedy comes from being the outsider. Being an outsider gives you more room to comment. People seem to be less willing to hear it from one of their own sometimes.” He is the cool catfish out of water.
Controversial, then? There’s a strong case for it. Hunter’s comedy takes aim at the lines of division in the world: be they class, gender or race. With targets like that, you’re bound to rub people up the wrong way. He’ll also take time to express his hatred for Marmite, defend the gingers of the world, and denounce Batman as “a conservative’s wet dream”.
But it’s when he’s holding a mirror up to society’s problems that he is at his best. He has deftly tackled the binge drinking culture of Britain in previous live shows.
He sees the notion of a class system as simply “an advanced form of racism”. “Britain has racism,” he once observed, “it’s just not very good at it.” As for the controversy tag, Hunter counters that it’s all a bit of a misnomer.
“I don’t feel controversial” he says, “I don’t have anti-abortion campaigners in front of my house or nothing like that! I still have the same friends, so… I may be controversial to uptight middle class people who ain’t heard this point of view before. Anything that is new to you or different to you is weird.”