MORE INTERESTING THAN FUNNY
NZ International Comedy Festival 2014|
REGINALD D HUNTER
Presented by EVENTS INNOVATED
at Hannah Playhouse (previously Downstage), Wellington
From 7 May 2014 to 10 May 2014
Reviewed by Simon Howard, 8 May 2014
Making his New Zealand debut on the back of great reviews and boasting a reputation as one of the UK's most-established and interesting comedians, hopes are high for Reginald D Hunter's opening night in Wellington.
Striding out without introduction in a hooded top, Hunter begins with material related to his week and a half in New Zealand. This is common choice by many international comedians in this festival, but not one which delivers much in the way of laughter. His comparison of New Zealand people as being similar to a gorgeous girlfriend (in that we constantly seek approval of how great we are) is amusing however.
It doesn't take long for Hunter to move on from his generic ‘getting to know you' opening into a series of discussions and observations about western culture and the society we live in today. He talks eloquently about our beliefs and makes intelligent assumptions about the decisions we make and the way we act. This is done in a commanding way, with a graceful poise and softly-spoken authority. At times his words strike a chord and make us think, but too often Hunter fails to reach a satisfactory conclusion and drifts into his next subject.
On a couple of occasions he raises the house lights to ask questions of the audience as a means of research. This is a hit and miss affair, although his theories from our responses are sometimes clever, in particular his view on Lance Armstrong and the irrelevance of his cycling profession.
Hunter is an intelligent and articulate comedian. He has the confidence to tackle weighty topics like rape and misogyny in great detail through a series of lengthy musings. However, after a while it all becomes a little tiresome. Light relief is not a feature of this show. He talks about difficult subjects in a way that shocks audiences who aren't prepared for it. As a result, Hunter never seems to fully engage with his audience. Is that our fault or his? Whilst he is always able to justify his opinions and theories, it doesn't make the audience warm toward – nor be sympathetic to – him.
The main problem with the hour, in my opinion, is there are large swathes where Hunter is simply not funny. This is certainly not your typical hour of comedy. There are a couple of occasions where the entire audience breaks out into laughter, but on the whole these moments are few and far between. The show lacks pace and energy.
Hunter says he has come to the other side of the world to get funny again after a self-imposed break from comedy last year. His passion for what he's talking about can't be questioned, and his presence and delivery is fairly endearing. But this certainly doesn't feel like a comedian at the peak of his powers. One can't help but expect more. Sadly Hunter is more interesting than he is funny.
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