I’m not controversial insists Reginald D Hunter

Reginald D Hunter
Reginald D Hunter
Picture: Shutterstock

SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: The Intruder by Mike Gaines

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He hit the headlines this week for a controversial comedy routine, just days before the start of his new tour.

The timing couldn’t have been better if Reginald D Hunter had planned it, because there’s no doubt the publicity will have boosted his ticket sales.

But he didn’t need it. The shows have been selling fast and those who have yet to book for his gig at the Kings Theatre in Southsea next Friday will have to sit in the upper circle now.

The furore this week was about his use of the word n***** at the Professional Footballers’ Association Awards on Sunday.

It reportedly shocked some guests at the London bash, but it’s not the first time that Reginald has been criticised for his use of the n-word.

The 44-year-old, who included a routine on racism in football in his Live At The Apollo set broadcast on New Year’s Day, has previously even used the word in the title of his shows.

In his well-mannered and relaxed deep southern drawl, he says: ‘In my experience, “controversial” is when you say something which people find difficult to accept.

‘So I’d say to them, “Now take a minute. Let the cold wind blow. It will be all right”.

‘If you find comedians mess up your day in that way, maybe you should get out more.’

But the controversy hasn’t put off critics or TV producers.

He won the Writers’ Guild Award for Comedy in 2006 and was nominated for the Perrier Award in the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, where in 1998 he was a finalist in the So You Think You’re Funny Competition.

And he’s appeared on panel shows including QI, Have I Got News For You, 8 Out of 10 Cats and Would I Lie To You?

But, when Reginald first came to England from his home in Georgia, it was for classical acting training, not comedy.

‘I came for a short RADA course. It was less than six months, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had as an adult,’ he remembers.

‘It was the first time everyone was good.

‘At college, I was the one dude doing it for more than a grade. In community theatre, I was the one person doing it not to avoid a marriage. But on that course, everyone was there because they really wanted to be, and everyone was good.

‘It was quite humbling and my alpha male ego needed that.’

He tried stand-up for the first time as a dare.

‘I was talking junk and someone said, “you ought to do stand up”. I thought about it and decided to give it a go.

‘It was electric and all my faults became virtues.

‘I wasn’t prepared for people to find me interesting. I didn’t think I was and no-one seemed to find me interesting before.

‘Also, I was very lucky that I started out here in Birmingham where everyone and they mamma were opening a club or a function room and they were cool with you just turning up and telling jokes for as long as you liked.

‘I worked through a lot of material that way and I wouldn’t have got the chance to do that in London.

‘The problem was that my friends were free on weekends when I worked and during the week, when I was free, they worked.

‘So I moved to London for companionship and to be closer to my writing partner, John Gordillo.

‘We moved in together and we would fall right out of bed and straight into jokes.

‘The day would go like this: get up, have some coffee, talk jokes, make a sandwich, then push on with jokes for an hour, watch some TV, then more jokes, go to the store for some Boston cream pie cookies, more jokes, call your girlfriend, more jokes. It’s the most pleasant way to work.’

Reginald says the content of that ‘work’ is harder to describe than its processes.

‘To try to uncover the meaning of comedy is to seek your own doom.

‘You can over-analyse to the point where you relieve everything of its magic.

‘You don’t have to pre-know everything. It’s like when you watch those long trailers and you have pretty much seen the whole movie.’

In the past, he’s found humour in global politics, sex, relationships and the cultural variances from both sides of the pond.

He explains: ‘The same thing that made me an outsider back home, makes me fit in real easily here.

‘America is not comfortable with stereotypes it’s not familiar with. Black Americans who are not Boys In The Hood and not The Cosbys are struggling to find an identity for ourselves.

‘In Georgia, where conversation is limited to the price of pig food, sport and Jesus, I was an outsider.

‘But people here get me. Here my sensibility makes perfect sense.

‘Y’all don’t mind an analytical debate about something intellectual or something silly.’

‘All my neuroses help me fit in here.

‘When my family saw me on YouTube for the first time recently, they asked, “Do British people really pay you for that?” The fact that I’m celebrated in London makes them think that the world has gone nuts.

‘I have felt right at home in Britain since the very beginning.

‘I know I love Britain because I’m mad at it, and you can only be mad at something when you love it, like a child or a woman.

‘Of all the places I’ve been in the world, Britain makes a real effort when it comes to trying to be fair. Brits do not just pay lip service to the idea of fairness. They give it a real go.’

Hopefully, the PFA will take that attitude and not continue with plans to get their money back from Reginald.

· Reginald D Hunter is at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, on Friday, May 10. Tickets: £23 from (023) 9282 8282. He’s also at Southampton Guildhall on Wednesday, May 8. Tickets: £26.50 from (023) 8063 2101.