When Reginald D. Hunter talks, it is impossible not to listen.
Thought-provoking ruminations wrapped up in that unmistakable southern drawl. Twenty minutes on the phone with him and I was sat in a dimly lit Alabama bar, listening to Blues, knocking back bourbon; not the Burnley Express office, listening to a drill outside, sipping a glass of water.
His new show, “The Man Who Knew As Much As Such”, comes to Halifax’s Victoria Theatre on Friday, May 8th. In preparation, Reginald has been busy acclimatising himself to life in the UK.
“I’ve come back. I’m refamiliarising myself with the UK and trying to care about the world again because you’ve got to care about the world if you’re going to comment on it.
“I start the preview process which I will call for British purposes, my ‘friendlies’. I have several friendlies before the tour starts where I’m looking for my sound again. When you’re on stage you’re big and you’re making your big sound with your biggest ideas but you know, when you’re in your personal life, nobody needs to here from that person. Your woman and your kids and your friends, they just need you to sit there and enjoy the movie like everybody else.
“I’m trying to relocate my big self and get reacquainted with what I do care about. Trying to get comfortable on stage. You gotta get funny. Let me just be funny for a while and see if I can still do it. And once you realise you’re still funny that’s when you start trying those how/why ideas.”
He is a comedian renowned for pushing boundaries, tackling subjects such as race and sexuality. His ability to make you laugh comes with a price...deep introspective thinking.
One thing that still surprises him, even after all these years, is his ability to surprise people.
“It always surprises me and I think naively. I always think I’m saying something that is obvious to either a thinking person or a person who has ever thought once. Whenever somebody is upset, yeah you are shocked by it. I’ve learned to disengage with it to some extent because it seems that we live in times where that sort of thing is going to happen and take on a life of its own.
“I’m a seventies child and so I grew up with a lot of public service information. It was about giving people stuff that was important to them and that was part of your role. So I see what I do as a service. And then on another level to I always try to do what I would want to see. I remember when I was a kid, I would watch Richard Pryor and he’d be doing stuff and it’d be great but then he’d stop doing it and I’d be like ‘no, no you’re pulling out of it too soon, stay in it just a little bit longer’. I always want to try and take it further.”
So how far will he be taking it with “The Man Who Knew As Much As Such”?
“It’s all brand new material. They (the audience) can expect...you know what, I don’t know what to tell you all good white people what to expect...because I don’t know what you all think. Sometimes people come to the show, they like me on ‘Have I Got News’, some people come because they’ve been watching me to stand up for years and want to know what the next evolution is. Some people like me just because I was on ‘QI’. There’s going to be people who haven’t heard of me who are going to see me on a documentary I’ve just done.
“All these people bring different energies to the show. Some people hear you swear and go ‘oh my God, he seemed so nice on television’.”
The aforementioned documentary saw Reginald embark on an epic road trip from North Carolina to New Orleans, documenting the 150-year history of American popular song for a new three-part BBC 2 series entitled “Reginald D Hunter’s Songs of the South”.
“It was a multi-challenging experience to have. And it is an experience that’s still resonating with me. I still don’t feel I’ve been able to fully evaluate it all yet. Music is big part of my life. I always notice that when I’ve been down or depressed for maybe a few days, at the end of my depressive state, that is when I notice music has been missing from my life.”
New Reginald D Hunter material is always music to my ears.
Tickets for his show at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax are available by ringing 01422 351 158 or through visiting www.calderdale.gov.uk/victoria.