Talking bad backstage behaviour, boring British food and cosmic karma with the stand-up who’s tired of playing by the rules
“It’s easy to see through sh*t,” drawls Reginald D Hunter. “The hard part is pretending that you haven’t. That’s something my mother used to say.” Basing his new tour around his own refusal to not say it like he sees it (“In order to be edgy, you have to know what the edge is…”), Hunter is feeling even more laid back than usual.
“It’s like the older I get, the easier it is to see through sh*t. And the harder it is to bite my tongue,” he says, shrugging off any worries about offending the wrong half of his audience. “I’m at the halfway point of this tour now, and it’s like being at the halftime of a big match. We’re playing well. We seem to be up at the minute, but a few of our players haven’t been working. So we’re starting to make some adjustments. But other than that, everything’s cool. Cool as the other side of the pillow.”
If there’s an unwritten rule about the things a comedian isn’t supposed to talk about, someone probably needs to write it before The Man Who Could See Through Sh*t comes to town – picking up its UK run from February 20. Before that, we got stuck in a lift with Hunter to ask the important questions.
Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Yo’ cousin. I might be stepping out of bounds here, but I just don’t think your family is giving your cousin the full credit that your cousin deserves.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Yo’ other cousin. Don’t nobody like them. Either them, or Dinesh D’Souza. And a lot of people don’t know that Dinesh D’Souza is actually your cousin.
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?
That would be Johnny Vegas. I turned up at this gig, and I was closing this particular night – and Johnny was on before me. He came on stage and he was pissed out of his skull. He came offstage and he pulled me to the side, really close, and he said, “I always wanted to…”. And then he threw up everywhere. That was first time I met him. I didn’t take it personally.
Have you spoken to him about that since?
I tried to, but he didn’t remember it. I mean, there’s a level far beyond pissed. And he was there.
What was the last gig that you went to?
I went to see some things at the Edinburgh Festival, but… this is something I was noticing about myself: I seem to go out a lot less, socially, since the lockdowns. The first two lockdowns felt like holidays I would never take for myself. You find yourself accruing things in your house that you would normally leave the house for. You got your music. You got your films. You got your books. You got your food. And you got the people you like, right there. I don’t know, the world doesn’t feel to me like it’s quite completely gotten his groove back since then. I need to get out more.
What’s on your rider?
A bottle of water and a good bottle of vodka. One microphone. A small table. And towels. Towels mean a lot to me.
That’s it? You’ve never been tempted to ask for something more outlandish?
Never. I mean, I think when you achieve “f*ck you money” status it’s appropriate to do that, but I haven’t achieved that. Yet. Okay. So, you know, if you can’t be great, be nice.
What did the 12-year-old you imagine that you’d be doing now?
Changing lives. Saving the Earth. I thought I’d be doing that as a superhero. Then I moved on to President. Then explorer. But I managed to do that all, primarily by being a stand-up comedian. When I was younger than that though I loved aeroplanes. My parents would sometimes take me to the airport and just let me watch planes take off and land. I fantasised about having a life where I was on aeroplanes all the time, and here we are!
What kind of superhero did you want to be?
I always loved Superman. In the 70s they had to reboot Superman because he had gotten too powerful. He’s God, really. I remember there was one comic when Lois Lane died and went to Hell. And Superman flew right in to get her. All the Superman movies since Christopher Reeve just haven’t done it for me. The mistake they made was trying to make Superman an antihero. Who wants to see Superman with a drinking problem? That would be British Superman.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
There’s a northern comedian who’s been on the circuit for a long time named Charlie Chuck. I love Chuck, and I did a gig with him – my fifth or sixth gig ever. He drove me back home to Birmingham and just as I was getting out of the car he said, “you need to get yourself a funny name. A funny name like Reggie Woodpecker”.
That is a pretty funny name.
Yeah if you’re 12.
Have you got any controversial food opinions?
I get the skunk eye whenever I put ketchup on scrambled eggs. People over here don’t like that. Or if I order a drink, like a scotch or a vodka, and mix it with water rather than something else. People look at me weird. But I think British people are more shocked at the foods and drinks I haven’t tried.
Beans on toast. To me, beans on toast is like putting my two most boring friends together. Also, I haven’t tried black pudding. Or escargot. Or Stilton. Or steak tartare.
They all sound pretty disgusting on paper though.
Not half as much as they do in your mouth.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I was a barman for two weeks at a pub in Greenford. It felt like the ass end of space. It was the first time that I was working with people for whom this was it for them. This was a job, rather than a stepping stone to something else. And, you know, if you’re a young dude coming into this with other ideas, some of those people can take not too kindly to you. They don’t mind putting certain obstacles in your way. And I think that was one of the major cultural differences that I ran into when I first got here. Americans always have hope, even when they shouldn’t. When I got here, I met people who not only didn’t have hope, but they were proud of it.
You were only there for two weeks?
Yeah because I got hired to do a pantomime. When I got that gig, I was straight outta there. But, like, I didn’t know pantomime was a thing. That was another culture shock. This particular company toured schools in Wales and the Midlands. In the dead of winter. Some of those places… it was just flat land with bleak, grey sky as far as the eye could see. It was wild. I remember we turned up at one school early, and I started kicking a football around with the kids before school. All of them were trying to kick the ball to me, and they all loved seeing this big goofy American trying to kick a football. Eventually, I fell on the ground. And one by one all the boys piled on top of me, and we were all laughing. And when the laughter died down, one of them reached out and put his hand on my face. I let him, and then all the others did too. And I realised, they might not have ever seen one of me before.
It was a great bonding moment. It was beautiful. And it made me understand the difference between white people who are racist and white people who are just inexperienced. And then, after that, I had the worst cold of my life for two straight weeks.
What’s the skill that no one else knows that you’re great at?
Well, if they don’t know there’s probably a reason.
Do you have any superstitions?
Oh, yes, I do. My father lived to 102. And I think one of the reasons he lived so long is that whenever he talked about his future plans he always started with, “if I live that long and nothing happens…”. Like, “If the Lord sees fit to let me live, I’m gonna mow the grass”. He always had some form of deference to a higher power, or energy, before he stated his plans. And I always kind of thought the universe gave him some mercy for that. Because, I mean, the way he drank, smoked, ate and f*cked around, he should have been dead 40 years earlier.
And that’s something you live by too?
Yeah, I mean I’m not as vigilant about it as he was. Probably more so since he died. But for me it’s more like every time I’ve said to myself, “I’m going to win this gig” or “I’m going to have sex with this girl”, I never have. I think humility works for a lot of people, but I also think brazen arrogance just puts a target on your back. Cosmically. A fall isn’t interesting unless it comes from a great height.