In the second decade of the 21st century, it almost seems you’re no-one unless you’re being offended about something.
It’s a theme that American stand-up Reginald D Hunter warms to in his new show, Some People Vs Reginald D Hunter, which stops off at The New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth on Saturday, April 29.
Reginald, originally from the state of Georgia, has made the UK his home for nearly 20 years now, and spoke with The Guide about his new show in a chat frequently punctuated with his distinctive booming laugh.
So how did the show’s name come about?
‘The joke was that originally it was mimicking “the people vs”, and then when I got over myself it was just “some people.’ He pauses: ‘A lot of them are my family.
‘It’s a nod to the OJ case, because I’ve got a thing or two to say about that, but it’s also esentially about all of us, because it seems that recently it’s easier than it’s ever been to wind people up. All you have to give is an honest opinion about anything and someone, somewhere will be offended.
‘More people want to be recognised for being offended or outraged – and that’s the significant part. If a person goes on excessively about their values, they’re essentially calling attention to the fact that this is what they think makes them great: “I don’t tolerate any type of inequality for midgets and that’s how I feel, now go tell people!”’
It’s something Hunter himself fell foul of when he was accused of racism for using the n-word during a set for the Professional Footballers’ Assocation by PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle.
Hunter sighs when reminded of the matter.
‘I’ve got mixed feelings about that, man. Without my permssion I was involved in a British family spat between the tabloids and the so-called establishment and I was just up there telling jokes.
All it takes is for me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in America, and my passport and my comedy career, none of that will matterReginald D Hunter
‘People are already of the inclination now to divide themselves into factions and camps, and if you’re a dude like me who’s not really a member of any camp, but you visit many...’ he tails off, chuckling.
Reginald says it will be 20 years next month since he came to the UK because he didn’t like any of the options he could see ahead of him if he stayed in the US, so decided to ‘go against the grain’.
He adds: ‘I also have this philosophy where if you don’t know what to do in a given situation, pick somebody you don’t respect and do the opposite of what you’d think they’d do. There was quite a few of them like that – none of them would go to England, so that was good enough for me.’
Since then he’s carved out a successful career on the live circuit and become a regular on TV – he’s often on Have I Got News For You as well as QI, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and numerous others.
What’s it like for him, though, when he goes back to America?
‘The last two-three years I’ve been real slow about going back home again because I’m aware they’re shooting black people again.’
He gives a rather unsettling laugh. ‘It seems to have quieted again, but that thing seems to go away and come back again.
‘On so many levels, as a black man you feel he is me and that could have easily been me, given the circumstances. All it takes is for me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in America, and my passport and my comedy career, none of that will matter.
‘And also as an American I feel embarrassed, not because the world is watching us and I feel embarrassed, but I feel embarrassed because haven’t we resolved this? It’s like Americans are still fighting about abortion. We’ve been fighting that since the ’70s.
‘At this point it doesn’t even matter what we choose – just pick something and move the hell on!’
He’s also less than enamoured with their new Commander in Chief.
He explains: ‘We forget that after September 11, from about 2001 to maybe 2006/7, black Americans enjoyed the most peaceful five years in America. All of a sudden there was a spike in black people being on TV, white people wanted us to sit next to them on the plane,’ he laughs.
‘It was great and then Obama got elected, and you have to remember that the part of America – the white America that’s not New York, that’s not San Francisco, that’s not part of the cognoscenti – they feel they’ve been lied to and during those years they were horrified and disgusted.
‘They’ve got black people, gay people and Jews flopping all over their TV screens, and that’s terrifying to them. In many ways for them Trump was a protest vote – not to the Democrats but to the system. It was like payback for Obama – in revenge we will send that turd to the White House.’
And when it comes to racists, confronting them and challenging their views on social media has become something of a serious hobby for the comic.
He says: ‘All the young cats that be watching me on social media, I wanted these conversations to be public because I wanted to show that the way you stop a barking dog is that you stand and you face it, then the battle’s half won. And if you keep your cool and you don’t be the first one to start lobbing insults, you win.’
* Some People Vs Reginald D Hunter is at The New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth on Saturday, April 29 at 8pm. Tickets cost £26. Go to newtheatreroyal.com