Reginald D Hunter at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Reginald D Hunter is and isn’t what you would expect. His approach to stand-up is first to make himself and his audience comfortable. Relax, he told us, go to the bathroom if you want to. Don’t ruin your bladders because of me. Hunter’s aura of calm emanated right from his first few steps onto the stage, sapping any tension out of the air. No one was on the edge of their seat anticipating the next laugh, wondering when it might come, what it might be, counting the moments since the last big joke- we all knew it would come and that it would be worth it. Really we were all just a part of a rather one-sided conversation with Hunter. His job was to chat amiably, making us laugh as a by-product of his story-telling, our job was to listen and raise our hands in answer to a few very varied questions.

It was quite a different style of comedy to that which you may be used to seeing on the stand-up circuit. The laughs were big but not as rapid fire and consistent as someone like say, Russell Howard, but we were undoubtedly entertained. For just over an hour, Hunter was the centre of our attention and we weren’t wondering about what was happening outside of the hall. Hunter had his audience effortlessly enraptured by his molasses-soaked Georgian tones. There were no worries here and if he said anything we didn’t like, then hey, he’d given us a list of warnings (and thank yous) at the start of the show. He wasn’t trying to reclaim a certain ‘N’ word, the bane of white middle-class racial guilt, it’s just the way he speaks. It’s the way a lot of people are starting to speak…

The jokes came from a mixture of sources, making Hunter’s style hard to define; part observational, part topical, part anecdotal, maybe even part thinking-out-loud. This pinball bouncing between comedic persuasions only adds to Hunter’s humour base, he is flexible and just naturally funny- you can’t help but think that just to be in his head, eavesdropping on his internal monologue, would be as amusing as going to any of his shows. Some vague details of his childhood are manipulated flippantly into comedy via use of impressions, as are cultural differences between the UK and US. There is perhaps nothing more disconcerting than watching Hunter twist the deep Deep South timbres of his voice into that of a plummy toff- a ‘castle accent’, as he called it. The level of English posh that just cries ‘One lives in a castle, you know.’

Hunter aimed to dissolve our stereotypical levels of British stiffness by the end of the show. He prefers talking to Brits at night because we’re less likely to freeze up after the conversation turns from weather and we may be more likely to take a compliment without mutating it  back-handedly into an insult. This goal seemed to take some affect as the night wore on, with people raising their hands to some oddly revealing questions even though a spotlight was on them. Hunter’s easy charm had his audience in a trance.

This was a great comedy show, no question about it, but it may not be for those who want an overload of fast and easy jokes, the sort you can repeat back to your friends verbatim the next day. No, Hunter’s style is about building a rapport, making a large hall feel close and intimate and feeding the audience on a steady diet of rumbling belly laughs that sound like the echoes of his own voice. Most of all, however, I think this show was about honesty; honesty in the telling, honesty in the self. As my friend observed to me at the end of the show, Hunter makes himself out to be a worse person than he actually is. The show is titled ‘Sometimes Even The Devil Tells The Truth’. I don’t think Hunter is referring to himself as the eponymous devil here, but he certainly spoke a lot of truth- and got more than a few laughs out of it along the way.