Reginald D Hunter

Reginald D Hunter

Georgia-born Hunter first made his mark on the UK circuit in 1998, when he was a finalist in So You Think You're Funny. He has been appearing in his own acclaimed one-man shows at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2002, when I Said What I Said was nominated for the best newcomer Perrier. He was nominated for the main prize in 2003 for White Woman and 2005 for A Mystery Wrapped In A Nigga. He was also nominated for best headliner in the Chortle Awards in 2004 and 2007.
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Reginald D Hunter, Ellie Taylor, Kiri Pritchard-Mclean and Andrew Maxwell

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Greenwich Comedy Festival

Eight years since it started, the Greenwich comedy festival has certainly established – or marketed – itself well enough to be able to fill a vast marquee on a Wednesday night, against a big night of football and with a less starry opening line-up than some of the other bills this week.

And the crowd was not just large, but up for it, too, taking mischief-making host Andrew Maxwell’s playful teasing in good spirits. If the grounds of the National Maritime Museum seems like a posh location – and it is – the audience weren’t too stuck up to laugh. 

Maxwell found ‘normal’ blokes called Phil and Dave who liked ‘normal’ things like dogs and chips, then teased the crowd about Greenwich’s pretensions, mocking it as an ‘overpriced Deptford’, the working-class South London area next door. The insult, like the rest of his energetic compering, played well.

Later, his prepared material about moving to Kent among the Brexiteers at the opposite end of the political spectrum to himself worked well, too, since it maintained that tone of affectionate mocking rather than out-and-out hostility to the other side.

If there was a theme to opening act Ellie Taylor’s routine, it’s her struggles with the expectations put on her – not least that boring old rule that she’s supposed to be monogamous now she’s married. Not that she’s been promiscuous, the exact opposite in fact as she fears she’s missed out on a ‘slaggy period’. Such improper thoughts have been in her repertoire for a while, including her Live At The Apollo appearance last year, but is a strong routine, addressing something so many people think but never say out loud.

Similarly, Taylor wound up the extreme wing of the Mumsnet community with a spoof social media post last year showing off the benefits of being childless, namely sleep and wine. Reading out angry online insults is a widespread comedy trope, and while the reaction she got is reasonably funny, it’s not exceptional and feels a little easy.

There are certainly stronger moments. In a set full of universal touchstones, she spoke of how she transforms under the influence of alcohol, got mileage out of her archetypal dumb Essex girl mate, and how she’s inching up the social ladder. Some fine observations are brought to life with subtly impressive skills at acting out the other roles, and there’s a good showing of smart punchlines – making for a dependably funny set from this friendly crowd-pleaser.

After the first interval, Kiri Prichard-McLean touched on a couple of the same subjects - but from a very different angle. She confesses to being broody for kids, while she definitely had that ‘slaggy period’  while at uni, which she recognises, with typical openness, as a time when she mistook ‘promiscuity for confidence’.

She laughs off her shortcomings, just as she responds to the ups and downs life can throws at anyone, embracing it all with a cheery sense of the silly. That even extends to thinking mischievously inappropriate thoughts during her volunteer work with children at risk, just one of the subjects that add grit to her observational comedy

Prichard-McLean, from rural Wales but long based in Manchester, plays up the North-South divide, and risks losing the London audience by revealing how little she paid for her three-bedroom terrace. Thankfully, though, she’s got some hilarious routines to win them back, not least a tale of a brutal DIY waxing that has all the elements of pain and humiliation of the best stand-up stories, told with vividness and vitality to bring it home. It’ll make you wince, but laugh too.

For Prichard-McLean is a winning mix of assuredness and modesty. She owns the stage and the material, yet seems genuinely delighted that the audience reacts so well to someone not on the telly. But she sure earned that reaction.

Finally, Reginald D Hunter hobbles to the stage, still on crutches three months after breaking his leg, and with a newfound appreciation of the NHS any American gets when they experience free healthcare. He’s also grown his hair out beyond his shoulder, though that’s by-the-by.

The injury is incidental, too, as Hunter has never been a striding-round-the-stage sort of a comedian. He likes to kick back, relax, and chortle at how people are getting so excitable all around him. 

How mad people get at the use of inappropriate words particularly amuses him, and he chucks a few in for good measure here – as well as regaling us with how he picked late-night fights with American racists online. Rather like Maxwell with his Leave-voting neighbours, the engagements eventually foster a grudging respect.

He explains President Trump through the eyes of such angry white folk, but this is not an overtly political set, nor is it as wilfully provocative as some of Hunter’s previous work. It is just as much about the personal as it is outward-looking, as he tells of encounters with his ailing father that initially upset him, until he found a new perspective.

That could be a metaphor for all of his comedy, seeing hate and expectations from a different point of view. The routine isn’t packed full of punchlines, but it’s all about tone, about Hunter’s beguiling charisma as a wry storyteller absorbing the audience into receiving the benefit of his wisdom, complete with droll comic embellishment.

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Published: 14 Sep 2017

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