Maybe it's because Reginald D Hunter wants to be known as a man who needs no introduction that he took to the stage with the stealth of a ninja while the lights were still down. The pre-show music was turned down, lights went up, and there he was in the middle of the stage, seeming to take great delight in just being there.
The USA born, UK resident opened his show by telling us what a controversial year he had had; he's been in the papers for performing an allegedly racist and misogynistic act at a football club, an act that was apparently just standard Hunter stuff. There was a backlash on the interwebs, many stoushes have been had and he feels that now some sections of the audience come along in a confrontational frame of mind, or to simply see if he is as offensive as has been reported, rather than to come along and enjoy a few laughs.
With this background knowledge, it's easy to see where his suggestions that the internet and social media too easily allows idiots to have opinions that would be better kept to themselves. I happen to agree with this; just look at every utterance ever made by every conspiracy theorist ever, insert winky emoticon. He also claimed to be weary of all the controversy and earnestly vowed to steer clear of anything controversial this evening.
First topic of the night? Oscar Pistorius. This segued into the not at all controversial Trayven Martin shooting in Florida which of course lead to a discussion about racism and the hypocrisy of American Foreign policy. Nope, no controversy here.
Hunter said in an interview with The Independent late last year that he prefers absurdist humour rather than humour dealing with race and gender. “But that's what I'm saddled with because nobody else will talk about it. You want the truth, I'd much rather be talking about anal sex and farting.”
Thing is, he does talk about one of the the latter. He did a joke about anal sex that was somehow very old school in its delivery, it just happened to be about what most consider a taboo topic. Inconceivably, this joke was almost loving and homely, kind of like how you'd imagine Mike and Carol Brady talking about anal sex.
Other uncontroversial topics included the sexual competition between his mother and his sister; the use and meaning of the word “nigger”; the concept of national psyche and how, amongst other things, the Japanese have not recovered from being the only nation in history to have been nuked twice and you only have to look at their version of porn for proof; and yes, the big taboo as far as comedy goes: rape.
It has to be said here that Reginald D Hunter is not purely a jokes-for-laughs comedian. He also thinks about stuff. A lot of stuff. And his aim is, I think, to also get us thinking. Thus he pre-empts his story about rape by asking why jail rape against males is almost universally funny. It's still rape. If you take rape seriously enough to think it's abhorrent when committed against women, is it not a bit hypocritical to consider it a bit of a laugh when it happens to a man? There's a whole bunch of stuff to think about here, of course – an unsuspecting woman is different altogether to a convicted male criminal. And yet, and yet.
Hunter's rape story doesn't condone the act; far from it. Does it trivialise it? Hmm. Does it get laughs? Yes, from both genders. Is it controversial? No. No, not at all, because Reginald D Hunter doesn't do controversial any more.
He also does nice, too, with a funny, very human piece about going home and visiting his elderly father.
All in all, this was the kind of act that seemed to improve the more I thought about it after the event.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival presents
Wake In Sleight
Reginald D Hunter
Venue: Forum Theatre - Downstairs | Cnr Flinders & Russell Sts, Melbourne
Dates: 8 – 20 Apr, 2014
Tickets: $26 – $38
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013
Part of the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival