Stand-up star Reginald D Hunter is The Bomb Shuffleur at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth | Interview

Reginald D Hunter is back, and he's applying his no holds barred approach to all the apocalyptic topics of the day – climate change, mass unemployment, pandemics, the rise of global fascism… You know, all those trivial, throwaway topics.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 6:00 am

The American stand-up, who has called the UK home for more than 20 years, is touring his new show Bombe Shuffleur, which brings him to Portsmouth's New Theatre Royal next month.

The Guide settled down to a Zoom chat with Reginald before Christmas, and after sorting some technical problems opening pleasantries find the comic in a curious mood.

So, how are you Reginald?

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‘I've been better…’ he says, ‘I've been real good, but sometimes I feel like my mother,’ and he’s suddenly singing Prince’s When Doves Cry, ‘she's never satisfied,’ before bursting into that distinctive booming laugh.

‘Sometimes when you don't have a lot of reasons to feel discontent, but you still feel discontent, I'm just... you know when I feel like this, I'm just one new joke away from being a better person.

‘Whenever a new joke works, it makes food better, it makes sex better, it makes the sun better. There's a handful of jokes I'm probably stuck on at the moment...’

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Reginald D Hunter is performing Bombe Shuffleur at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth February 12, 2022. Picture by Kash Seff

Explaining the title and themes of the show he says, opening in a French accent with a broad sweep of his hands: ‘Le Bombe shuffleur! I consider myself a bomb shuffler – a bomb shuffler is someone who navigates, or juggles, situations beyond the awareness of others to keep people well.

‘So parents are bomb shufflers, teachers are bomb shufflers, administrators are bomb shufflers, and I as a comedian juggle dangerous subjects on stage – I am The Bombe Shuffleur.’

Is this his expression or did he come across it elsewhere?

‘This is a Reginald D Hunter original! I've been saying this for decades. Like sometimes a person will come up to me and they'll say: “Oh my god, I can't believe the nerve you had to say that and when you were discussing race”. And I would say: “I shuffle bombs”. That's what I do – I shuffle bombs.’

Reginald D Hunter is at The New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth in February 2022. Picture by Kash Seff

The tour takes in 53 dates as it treks back and forth across the UK. It's his first tour since 2019, so did he start writing this show before the pandemic?

‘Yeah, and none of those jokes from the pre-Covid show are any longer relevant!

‘I had probably got about the first 30 minutes worked out – like, bam, bam bam! And then y'know, I ain't mad because I had all of this extra time to write it. I actually have a lot of jokes and I now have to pare things down to get it all down to an hour.’

How long would the full, unedited version of Bombe Shuffleur run to, then?

Reginald D Hunter. Picture by Kash Seff

‘If I told you conservatively, it might sound like boasting. Let's just say all of the jokes, top to bottom that are actually funny, there's a good two hours here.

‘There's a lot of stories and stuff in there, but I had a different vision for this show than I had for other shows.

‘In other shows I was determined to make certain points, or certain intellectual digressions, or call out certain political or racial groups. I don't know if the world needs that so much from me right now... I think the world just needs to laugh and feel better.

‘I think we all have a greater moral responsibility to pick each other up. There's so much happening that seems intent on breaking your spirit down, so one has to be vigilant about bringing joy.’

But the list of subjects you’re tackling doesn’t exactly sound uplifting?

‘I shuffle bombs...’ and he chuckles again.

The last time The Guide spoke with the comic it was for his Some People Vs Reginald D Hunter tour in 2017, and he was not entirely happy with his country-folk’s then recent choice of president, Donald Trump.

How does he look back on those four years now?

‘This is my post-mortem theory on Donald Trump – how did Donald Trump come to power? How did Donald Trump even get to be president, someone who is as much like that as he is?

‘And I have to blame the TV show The Apprentice.

‘For several years, Americans got used to watching him, an idiot, talk down to people – even other rich people, or other famous people.

‘And you can condition people, particularly people in America. They looked at him and thought,’ he affects a stereotypically dumb voice, ‘”Yeah, I can see Donald Trump running things, yeah, I can see that”.’

‘I think that show should be shut down and banned forever. It's a scourge on mankind, take it and burn it.

‘What's true in America is that commerce is greater than the law, commerce is greater than morality.

‘I felt bad about Trump – I felt responsible for Trump in a way. I was telling people in 2015 that he would never make it – I thought I had my fingers on the pulse in America and then Trump got into office and I told myself, since I was so wrong about that: you are not allowed to have public opinions for at least one year.’

As a regular on shows like Have I Got News For You, he keeps up with UK politics, but he doesn’t vote here.

‘No, I haven't earned that right, so I can totally mock you without feeling responsible in any way,’ he beams.

Can he see a way forward for a more tolerant, decent way of politics?

‘We're going to get back there, but it's going to get worse before it gets better. There's going to have to be some more healing and more pain and dare I say it, a little bit more blood.’

When you have some supposedly mainstream politicians, here and in the US, openly advocating violence, how did we get here?

‘My mum used to say that in the circle of good against evil, the problem with good versus evil is that evil always seems to get the first punch in.’

Has he been home to The States lately?

‘I was last there December 2019. Then my father died about 10 months ago.’ His mother died in 2004. When The Guide expresses condolences for his loss, he adds: ‘Don't feel bad, he was 102, I had him for a long time. But I have to say since he died I haven't felt any real urgency to go back. I've felt the obligation to but not the urgency.’

Unable to tour during the lockdowns, how did he keep his sanity?

‘I brushed up on my video watching,’ he deadpans. ‘I managed to finally put on all of that weight I've been failing to put on all of those years, and I actually wrote jokes until I started to hate my own jokes.

‘I would write a joke and then go: “Well, I would say that wouldn't I? That sounds exactly like something Reg would say!”’

And has he made plans beyond this tour?

‘I've got some vague plans, but half of me keeps looking for the world to be shut down again any week now.

‘You read conflicting things about Covid numbers, so I'm going to treat this tour like it's my last – not like I'm retiring or something, but just in case the world goes completely to crap.

‘I didn't realise how much I loved my industry until the virus nearly took it away.

‘I love my industry so much I do favours for comedians I hate now: “You alright, man? You need anything? Just give me a call!”’

Reginald D Hunter: Bombe Shuffleur is at New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth on Saturday, February 12 at 8pm. Tickets £26. Go to newtheatreroyal.com.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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