After a change of venue, two changes of date and a broken limb, the fact that Hunter and the audience made it to the Ipswich Regent at all was a feat in itself. Having bounced from a Thursday to a Friday and finally to a Sunday night show, the crowd had thinned slightly and the evening had mellowed in tone. “I’m sure by the next tour I’ll be back to making dick jokes,” quipped the American, nursing his broken leg and apologising for the lack of actual standing in his routine.
As he introduced his Canadian support act Glenn Wool, Hunter laid out the tone for the evening (“We’re keeping it loose this evening, just letting it all hang out”) and they both delivered in distinctly different directions.
Wool and Hunter matched each other for boundary-pushing material and playing up social-politeness-gone-wrong, with Wool wildly changing his tone, pacing up and down the stage and baiting the crowd to react. Another long-time-visiting North American comic with a taste for guilty laughs from the audience; if you like Reginald D Hunter, check out Glenn Wool.
Wheeling himself out after the intermission, Hunter opens with his apologies – first for his leg, then on behalf of all Americans for Trump – and quickly makes his way to the bedrock of the set, his family. Conversations with his brothers, nieces, and most notably his father, peppered the hour-long performance and, at times, made the show much more intimate than the start of this tour may have felt.
With the darkness in the theatre pushing the audience together and Hunter sat down, he shared personal stories. He openly admitted, “this next bit isn’t funny,” as he relayed what he’d learned about Harper Lee, and created a different vibe to that made by his typically tall, imposing frame delivering candid jokes, keeping his audience on the back foot.
He mixed this wistful approach with his latest ventures off-stage. His realisation he was now a white, middle-class commodity fit to feature on BBC Two, and his ongoing mission to write a book for which he has already spent the advance money, landed well with the white, middle class audience that might one day buy his book.
All of this shone through in a set featuring the hallmarks of Hunter’s 20-year career. Race, gender and sex all come under his honest, stand-offish gaze and it makes for compelling watching. The rest of the tour continues uninterrupted and audiences are in for a more pensive side of Hunter not always on display.