Al Porter

Al Porter

Al Porter got noticed in Ireland via the RTE Two New Comedy Awards in 2013, and within a year was signed up to co-anchor the Colm Hayes drivetime show on the broadcaster's 2fm station. Outside of stand-up he has been resident panto dame at Dublin''s Olympia Theatre since 2007.
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Reginald D Hunter: The Man Who Could See Through Shit

Review of the comic's latest tour

Given the self-mythologising title, I wonder what Reginald D Hunter might say if he could apply that bullshit detector to his own tour? Possibly that it feels incomplete; that ideas are floated but never allowed to develop before he moves on to the next unconnected bit of material; that a stand-up whose undeniable skill in holding a room rapt has never been in question is using that talent to skimp on content. 

Hunter has a reputation for going deep and even styles himself as ’a comedic social detective’ in this show, but the profundity he teases never quite materialises. In each disjointed segment, initial, promising thoughts evaporate with one gag rather than opening out a thought-provoking argument.

The title, for instance, refers to his mother, whose homespun wisdom inspired the show’s title. ‘It’s easy to see through shit,’ she would say. ‘The hard part is pretending you haven’t’.

‘I hated her guts,’ the comic frankly admits, but now at 54, concedes: ‘The damn bitch was right.’ It sets up a distinctive take on a universal experience – especially given how much Hunter’s interrogated his relationship with his father in previous shows – yet develops no more than that. Same happens to potentially intriguing insights such as why ‘yo momma’ jokes are so triggering or the assumption he can speak for all black people when he can’t even speak for most of his family.

A recurring motif in which Hunter dreams about delivering home​ truths to various black celebrities - Kanye, Will ​Smith and so on – is frustratingly flimsy, yet he keeps coming back to it. It’s a convoluted device to deliver a ‘Lizzo’s grouchy because she’s fat’ line.

Hunter likes to play the edgy card, highlighting there will be people in the room who want nothing more than being ‘recreationally offended’. The flip side of that is that other people enjoy the mischief of thinking they’re being transgressive, whether that’s true or not. Typically, Hunter flirts with this idea that he’s saying something verboten but then steps back from the breach.

Mere mention of the King elicits some frisson, undoubtedly because of the royals’ headline-making health issues, but the envelope is pushed no further than Camilla acting like a sassy ghetto girl after the coronation. But in fact it’s rather a jolly routine – only the sort of die-hard royalists with a cabinet full of commemorative crockery would take umbrage. 

Likewise he brings up Israel to get the reaction, then says nothing to follow up, while his mention of Phillip Schofield is only to talk about a female friend’s over-investment in the story.

Despite never getting properly stuck into anything, many of Hunter’s lines are funny, none more so than the ‘jokey joke’ about conspiracy theorists he wrote to challenge the criticism that he can’t do straight-up gags levelled at him by the daughter he only discovered he had a couple of years ago (that personal detail offering another comically unexplored avenue). 

Asking the audience about hypotheticals takes an amusingly bizarre left turn, while a political comment through his favourite metaphor – graphic fucking – is notable for his commitment to the bit. If only he could be so dedicated to the philosophical side he so frequently skirts.

Delightfully smutty support comes from Al Porter, full of joyous camp and unsubtle double entendres. Since he’s a gay man, the audience are treated to ‘two D hunters tonight’, he trills in cheeky glee.

Porter’s booking is clearly a stepping stone for him to rebuild his career after a MeToo scandal torpedoed it seven years ago. He doesn’t shy away from that, offering contrition and a sincere vow that he’s changed his ways.

Necessary it may be for those who know of his past, but it’s a jarring note of seriousness towards the end of a set largely defined by its fun, frothy frivolity. And since it comes hot on the tails of a routine about a couple of ex-lovers who transitioned to women that isn’t yet watertight enough for the tension it creates, this set designed to warm us all up ends more awkwardly than is traditional.

» Reginald ​D Hunter: The Man Who Could See Through Shit tour dates

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Published: 25 Mar 2024

Al Porter Is Yours

Should Graham Norton vanish in mysterious circumstances,…

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Al Porter Is Yours

Al Porter Is Yours

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Al Porter: At Large

Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Al Porter in Campus Maximus

Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Al Porter: A Work in Progress


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