Arts

Reginald D Hunter: I've got to the stage where I don't give a s**t

Known for his outspoken views on race, sexuality and politics, Jenny Lee catches American comedian Reginald D Hunter on a day he's keeping his cards close to his chest – though she finds out that the secret to worrying about public opinion is to break a leg

Reginald D Hunter returns to Ireland this October with his highly anticipated new show Some People vs Reginald D Hunter

AN ACCIDENT involving "tequila and a shower" which resulted in Reginald D Hunter breaking his leg in two places, has led the outspoken American comedian to reevaluate his philosophy on life and become less concerned with ratings, reviews and other people's opinions.

With three Perrier Award nominations to his name and countless appearances on TV comedy panel shows, such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, QI and Have I Got News For You, Hunter is renowned for his distinctively honest take on controversial subjects including race and sexuality.

When we chat, he is reluctant to sum up his new show Some People vs Reginald D Hunter, simply replying he "doesn't do trailers". After a prolonged pause he adds: "Put it like this: I'm 48 years old and Reginald D Hunter has finally got to the point where he doesn't give a s**t.

"Anyone who has a job that involves other people worries about opinions. My problem was I was worrying about opinions too much. The biggest thing that helped me change was breaking my leg in two places. When you are laid up and have time to observe people you come to a realisation about what really matters and what doesn't."

Born in the sleepy town of Albany in Georgia, USA, Hunter moved to England 20 years ago, when he achieved a place at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Then, after performing his first comedy set as a dare, he went on to receive much acclaim for his searingly honest material.

Never afraid to face challenging issues head on, his latest stand-up show is changed on a daily basis, giving audiences an up-to-date commentary on society and global affairs.

The show also contains less Donald Trump jokes than you would expect.

"All the Trump and Brexit stuff is [done] more out of respect for the elephant in the room and we get that out of the way in the first 10 minutes, so we can get down to business," he says.

While he admits he "felt depressed" for a few weeks following Trump's election as US President, Hunter has moved on. "I'm over that now. Eventually you go numb and then start to feel something else."

And the most annoying thing about Trump?

"European journalists asking me about him."

Well, that's me put in my place. Next, I brave asking Hunter what subject annoys him most at the moment?

"I'm not going to tell you," he replies abruptly.

Will he be tackling the controversial issue of gay marriage during his Northern Ireland dates?

"I don't really see that gay marriage is a problem. I haven't heard a good argument against it. However, in America white women and gay folk are not having the worst time at the minute. So gay marriage is not at the forefront of my burner at the minute."

A regular visitor to Ireland, he is fond of Irish humour.

"Like other audiences in the world, they tend to sit attentively and listen and if you say something f***ed up or unfunny they let you know. But Ireland almost feels like home. Ireland has the whitest black people I know," he laughs.

Last year Hunter recorded the hugely popular three-part BBC2 series Reginald D Hunter’s Songs Of The South which documented his epic road trip from North Carolina to New Orleans through 150 years of American popular song.

Pushed to name the music he would have on the soundtrack of his life, he chooses Willie Nelson's Midnight Rider and The Healer with John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana.

While he has sung live on stage to enhance a joke, he has no desire to be a recording artist. He does, however, have big ambitions to write and direct not just one movie – but four.

He's already started the scripts of what he describes as "twisted dramedy" involving feminine eccentric stories.

:: Some People vs Reginald D Hunter, the Ulster Hall, Belfast, October 22; Market Place Theatre, Armagh, October 25. Tickets from ticketmaster.ie

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