Reginald D Hunter: Live

DVD review by Steve Bennett

In his last couple of Edinburgh shows, Reginald D Hunter has appeared to be coasting: phoning in half-formed routines safe in the knowledge his undeniable charisma and bewitching Deep South drawl will see him though.

But in his debut DVD, he has pulled out all the stops. He’s at his thoughtful, provocative best, playfully tickling ‘hot topic’ buttons that could cause offence, but justifying them by home-spun philosophy, which may or may not hold up to scrutiny.

His trick is to treat the audience like they are grown-up enough to hear these edgy ideas. He often hesitates as he approaches some contentious topic, as if he’s weighing up the risks of showing us his darker side. ‘Aah, all right,’ he seems so say, ‘I think you can be trusted with this…’

Oftentimes you can sense the audience squirming with the consequences, but that is exactly where Hunter likes them. On talking about offence caused by comedy, he ponders what manner of person could possibly go to a stand-up show and ‘not suspect the motherfucker on stage might be joking’. But with him, the fear is that he might be serious...

Technically, he might have a point, but when he suggests rape isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a woman; that he’s tired of the word rape ‘just being used to scaremonger’; or suggesting he could always win an argument against a female interloquer?? by sticking a sack on her head and shoving her in the boot of his car, it’s not exactly laudable. You can see why he has long been dogged by accusations of misogyny, even if he’s surely only saying such things for reaction. And they do elicit laughs, even if they are particularly guilty ones.

Behind all this aim is to encourage us to think differently about such issues as racial sensitivity or gender differences. Hunter is clear in his pursuit of ‘honesty’ – or at least his version of it – whether it’s in a ‘does my bum look big’ style conversation with a girlfriend, or having his 91-year-old father talk about the time he sucked white men’s dicks for money.

There is, therefore, more intent than just the desire to shock, even though the freedom to say what polite society dictates he oughtn’t is clearly something he revels in. He softens the blow with an implicit faux-innocent, wide-eyed ‘what?’ in his expression, while the distinctive broken grammar he employs adds a flicker of naivity that is surely pure illusion.

But it’s not all deliberately contentious, as there are some sharp, and accurate examples of social commentary, especially his outsiders’ take on the British class system and our love of a drink. He also offers a brilliant deconstruction of Sex And The City 2, which is as flamboyantly ridiculous as the subject matter demands. Though he does nickname Samantha ‘Super-ho’.

This might not be the DVD the whole family can gather round on Christmas night, but it’s certainly a substantial piece of contentious stand-up.

  • Reginald D Hunter Live is out now on Universal DVD. Click here to buy from Amazon for £12.99

Published: 21 Nov 2011

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