RICH HALL, the singing cowboy from Montana, is a Galway Comedy Festival favourite, an institution, and a must see during the last week of October. Really, the festival would not be the same without him.
His grouchy demeanour, deadpan delivery, absurdist irony, rapid-fire wit, and idiosyncratic approach to country music, will be seen and heard across a variety of shows at this month’s Galway Comedy Festival.
Rich is on something of a high at the moment, with a new show to perform and a recently published memoir that has been showered with critical acclaim.
Rich’s new show, Shot From Cannons, will be performed at Róisín Dubh on Sunday October 30 (his other performances will be at mixed bill events and the Comedy Club Crawl ). Expect new rants, knife-edge observations, thrilling musical interludes, and an ever-formidable knack for laughs on the fly.
The Guardian rightfully called him “blissfully funny”, while The Scotsman said he was “vital and incredulously angry. Hilarious”. No matter what show you see him at, you will pay for the whole seat, but you will only need the edge of it.
From newsman to funny man
Originally from Virginia, Rich grew up in North Carolina, and his original ambition was to write. After school he trained in journalism, starting his career at the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee.
He only came to comedy as a means of trying to impress a girl he liked. His method of seduction was a one-man show in a state university campus in Kansas, armed with a bucket, a loudhailer, and some dog biscuits. It was not a triumph. He didn’t get the girl, but he had found his true calling.
Rich did eventually realise his ambition to become a writer as this story of his comedic origins is revealed in his memoir, Nailing It - Tales From The Comedy Frontier. The book was published in August this year. Bill Bailey called it “an uproariously funny collection of true stories from one of the comedy greats”, while Adfam Hills declared it “a wild and wonderful love letter to comedy”.
Rich’s comedy career began in 1980 as a writer and performer on the David Letterman Show. In 1984-5, he was part of the cast for the 10th season of Saturday Night Live, and would later appear on such iconic US TV shows such as Late Night With Conan O’Brien. He is famously the inspiration for The Simpsons grouchy barman, Moe Szyslak.
"I suspected Moe was based on me because I used to write with George Meyer back when he was one of the original writers on [The Simpsons],” Rich told The Examiner. “Matt Groening was a fan of my stuff. Other people said: 'You look and sound just like Moe.' Then Matt confirmed it. It's an honour, once you get over the shock of seeing yourself as a horrible, yellow caricature.”
The American really came to attention in Europe after he won the Perrier Comedy Award in 2000. Since then he has become a regular on British TV, often appearing on QI (25 times to be exact, and he has won more episodes than any other guest panellist ), as well as 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Live at the Apollo, and Have I Got News For You.
Big Squeeze fan
These days, Rich, along with his wife, Karen, and their two daughters, divide their time between a small ranch just outside Livingston, in southwestern Montana, and London. Fascinatingly, Rich’s first trip to the British capital, back in the early 1980s, was not to see comedians, or a country music performer, but was instead to see British new wave/pop-rock band Squeeze.
“I wanted to visit London for the music,” he told The Times in 2020. “I was a big fan of Squeeze. A friend of mine knew the band’s bass player, so I ended up hanging out with them in Deptford — I travelled 4,000 miles for a holiday in southeast London.
“Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and all that sightseeing stuff? Nah, I wanted a taste of real London, eating in “caffs” and going to see punk bands in the back room of some pub. The only problem I had was the layout of the streets — I’d grown up with a grid system, and the minute I walked anywhere I got lost.”
There won’t be much chance of Rich getting lost in Galway during his stay here for #GCF22. He knows the city well at this stage and he is very much part of the festival experience.
Comedy fest audiences will be looking forward to Rich’s acerbic and droll wit, and country songs the likes of which you do not hear on the radio. As narcmagazine.com said: “Constantly irate and always ruthlessly honest, there is a prowess to his disgruntled styling that many comics try to replicate but few can perfect…If comedy is about misdirection, there is no act more likely to keep you guessing than the master that is Rich Hall.”
Rich Hall will perform his show, Shot From Cannons, at Róisín Dubh on Sunday October 30 at 7pm. He will Headline the Comedy Club Crawls on Sunday afternoon, October 30. On Monday October 31 he will perform at a mixed bill show in The Ruby Room, The King’s Head, at 1pm and at Galway Comedy Festival Closing Gala in the Town Hall Theatre at 7pm. Tickets are on sale via www.galwaycomedyfestival.ie