Interview with comedian Rich Hall ahead of Wellingborough and Corby gigs
Rich Hall is regarded as one of the funniest comedians to come out of the US in recent times.
And, as he is based here most of the time, we in this country have over the past three decades been lucky enough to benefit from his wonderfully grouchy sense of humour.
And there is the chance to enjoy more of his crotchety comedy when he brings his new touring show 3:10 to Humour to both The Castle Theatre in Wellingborough and the Core at Corby Cube in May.
The comedian, who has won both a Perrier (Edinburgh Comedy Festival) and a Barry (Melbourne International Comedy Festival) Award, is the most dazzlingly funny curmudgeon in The West.
Critics have long praised Rich’s highly original deadpan style (which was the inspiration for the marvelously cantankerous barman, Moe Szyslak, in The Simpsons).
The Guardian raves that, “Now is the time to grab this chance to see the great man at work”.
The Sunday Mirror, meanwhile, calls the comedian, “Captivating and brilliant… His ability to make the room guffaw was worthy of standing applause”. While the Sun’s review is short and sweet: “Rich Hall is a comedy phenomenon”.
Rich, who has presented such critically acclaimed BBC 4 documentaries as Rich Hall’s Continental Drifters, Rich Hall’s The Dirty South, How The West Was Lost, Rich Hall’s Californian Stars, Rich Hall’s Cattle Drive and Rich Hall’s Gone Fishing’, begins by underlining how excited he is to be performing live once again.
He said: “I love being on stage.
“I love the fact that when a live show is over, it’s gone. It’s happened, and it will never happen like that again. It can’t be replicated. That’s a great magical moment.”
Rich, who is also an accomplished author and has released three books, Magnificent Bastards, I Blame Society and Things Snowball, thrives on the spontaneity of live comedy.
He observes that, “In every single show, there are always two or three moments where I’m thinking, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ You’re constantly thinking on your feet.”
One of the many unique features of Rich’s act is that he goes out of his way to find out about the town he is playing in and then improvises a song on stage about it. He goes the extra mile to tailor-make his material for that particular venue.
Rich said: “I try to tap into what is happening locally and address that musically by writing an improvised song based on the town I’m in.
“Once they realise you’re not just trotting out your regular act, people think, ‘He’s made a real effort. He’s on our side, so we’re on his side.” Then you can take them anywhere.
“I like to do something custom-made every night, otherwise you would just be like a robot. That can really wear you down. Nobody gets more sick of hearing their own voice than a comedian.”
Rich, who was also enjoyed huge success as his country and western musician alter ego, Otis Lee Crenshaw, carries on that: “When you’re improvising a song, you think, ‘I may never do this on again, but it’s a special moment for everyone here’.
“You want to reach the point where audiences say, ‘I’d like to see that guy again’. You want to deliver the goods and be Old Reliable.”
Rich goes on to reflect that, “Music works in my show because it connects with people on a very personal level. A lot of comedians just come on stage and say, ‘I was on a bus and I passed so and so.”
“But that’s just a reaction to something rather than a specific, custom-made song that engages people. The magic is more important than the material. People really respond to that.”
The stand-up’s other trademark is anger, and he is capable of using that to very effective comic ends.
Rich comments that: “It is always good to articulate anger.
“If you don’t, you’re merely preaching to the converted and asking, ‘Have you ever noticed?’ Yes, we are paying you to notice things we haven’t already noticed!”
Rich has just been in the US making How to Kill a President, another fascinating sounding BBC4 documentary, this time about negative campaigning in the Presidential race. American politics is bound to feature in 3:10 to Humour.
The comic will certainly be addressing the question of whether the extraordinary, controversial businessman Donald J Trump can win the Republican nomination. He said: “People come up to me all the time and ask if Trump can do it, but I promise you, he will not win.
“There is a lot of gnashing of teeth about Trump, but it’s merely entertainment. He’s doing what he has to do to get attention. He is saying the most outrageous things and tapping into a collective sense of anger.”
But, Rich adds: “Eventually Trump will come under the same scrutiny as everyone else. ‘So you want to build a giant wall along the border and make the Mexicans pay for it? How are you going to do that, then?’”
The only positive benefit of Trump, Rich believes, is that he is forcing the other Republican candidates actually to say something substantial.
The comedian reckons that, “If the people running had their way, no one would be watching the campaign at all. But when Trump comes along, everyone has to react and talk about issues – and candidates hate that. God forbid that they have to talk about issues!”
Before he has to go, Rich reflects once more on what he loves so much about touring. “I’m not a big showbiz hound,” he muses, “but for me being on stage is the most satisfying thing imaginable.”
A sentiment with which Rich’s legions of fans would no doubt wholeheartedly agree.