Reginald D Hunter - on that midnight train to Georgia

REGINALD D Hunter was born in the Southern state of Georgia in the late 1960s but in the early 1990s he travelled to Britain to train as an actor at RADA. However after winning a £10 bet to do a comedy gig he decided to re-focus his artistic energies on stand-up.

Over the past decade Reginald has seen his star in Britain and Ireland rise. He has brought six solo stand-up shows to Edinburgh and was nominated for the Perrier Award in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Hunter has also appeared on many comedy panel shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, 8 Out of 10 Cats, and Have I Got News For You.

It was while living in Birmingham that Hunter first got into stand-up comedy. He’d fallen out with the director of a touring production he was working with and found himself in the British Midlands with no money and no prospects of employment.

When the opportunity arose to take to the comedy stage and to make some cash he jumped at the chance.

“For a few years I had funny things going around my head that I wasn’t sure what to do with,” Reginald tells me. “I thought they were worth pursuing and at first I thought they’d fit in to a short story or something like that.”

The London Evening Standard wrote in 2006 that Reginald “started out in the local club where Frank Skinner was the compere”. However, it appears this was not the case.

“That’s not true,” Hunter points out .“The gig that I did in Birmingham was at a venue where Frank Skinner used to be the compere. By the time I got there he had moved on but his name was still bandied about on the scene.

“I actually met Frank for the first time about maybe six months ago and he’s a swell cat. That’s funny though because that’s the first time I heard that rumour that Frank gave me my start. When you’re touring and working as much as I am you don’t even hear circuit gossip.”

After serving his apprenticeship on the Midlands scene he moved to Islington in north London to further develop his craft. He formed a friendship with fellow comic John Gordillo and they ended up sharing a flat together.

Gordillo has also directed his Edinburgh shows like Pride and Prejudice...and Niggas which have sometimes caused controversy due to their use of the N-word. The company that owns the London Underground advertising rights has in the past banned Hunter’s posters for fear of offending commuters.

“I’m open to listening to someone who can explain to me how I’ve morally or ethically done anything wrong,” he says. “If the disagreement is about political correctness or anything like that then I’m not really interested. I’ve stopped caring in that case.”

Although Reginald has been nominated for the Perrier Award three times and won the Writers’ Guild Award in 2006 for Pride and Prejudice...and Niggas, he does not aspire to Fringe Festival success. He just wants to do shows.

“I don’t really see it as a boost winning plaudits in Edinburgh,” he says .“The festival for comedians like myself is sort of like a time when you put your pencils and show everybody what you’ve been thinking about all year. For me August is almost like examination time in terms of the work that I do.”

Quite early in his comedy career Hunter began gigging in Ireland and it is through his travelling across the Irish Sea time and time again that he has built up a loyal following. Hotpress described him as “the Samuel L Jackson of comedy...the coolest man in stand-up”.

Reginald has played the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival, the Bulmers International Comedy Festival, the Carlsberg Comedy Carnival, and the Galway Comedy Festival.

“I enjoy Ireland. Period,” he states .“There hasn’t been a place in Ireland that I haven’t performed in. I really enjoyed my time in Letterkenny.”

Having developed a name for himself in Britain and Ireland Reginald has begun to start concentrating on building up a following for his comedy style in his home country. A few years ago he did a series of gigs in Georgia and it was one of the most scary and rewarding experiences in his stand-up career to date.

“I did three shows in Atlanta and my family came to all three,” he says. “The first night was a bit nerve-wracking because I had to make sure that I got tickets for everyone. Instead of concentrating of what jokes you’re going to tell you’re making sure that Aunt Sally, who normally doesn’t go out to something like that, gets there and that she is comfortable. It’s your family and sometimes they’ve got special needs.”

The shows Reginald did in his own backyard whetted his appetite for more tours in the US.

“I would love to do more stuff in the States,” Reginald says .“I’ve done maybe 25 sets there and even the bad ones I’m glad I did them. I love doing stand-up but if you’re going to advance your career or expand your audience then you have to do the Letterman’s and the Jay Leno’s. They are not though goals in themselves. It’s very different from the stand-up world but if you’re going to develop you’ve to get out of your comfort zone.”

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