Interview: Reginald D Hunter

Abigail SaltmarshThe first time he visited Norwich he had to hack through the snow - now he just hopes it's raining as he return for Norwich Comedy Festival. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to Reginald D Hunter.Abigail Saltmarsh

The first time he visited Norwich he had to hack through the snow - now he just hopes it's raining as he return for Norwich Comedy Festival. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to Reginald D Hunter.

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You would expect an American to have a good old whinge about the British weather, but not Reginald D Hunter - he just loves it.

The US stand-up who has made a name for himself with his simultaneously laid-back and sharp observations is heading to Norfolk next week and hopes it might be raining.

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'I love the British weather. I don't like the cold but I am a big fan of rain,' he admitted. 'I love it when it rains.'

While the organisers of the Norwich Comedy Festival are presumably hoping he is disappointed, set as it is in a big top in Chapelfield Gardens, they also remember a visit five years ago when Reginald had rather more serious weather to contend with.

'It was cold and snowy, and I managed to get to Norwich on the train. All the other comedians couldn't get through but we went ahead with the gig,' said Reginald. 'And it went pretty well.'

This visit he will be taking centre stage as the headline act at the Comedy Festival on Wednesday. 'I will be performing with Steve Hughes, and will be making very pressurised comments but it will be fun. I don't want to say much more than that as it is all part of the reveal,' he said.

'I'm looking forward to it. I love the art of comedy and I love the audience to be as involved as they want to be - as long as they are not drunk and they are funny!

'It tends to make the show more genuinely edgy.'

Reginald was born in Albany, Georgia, but these days, spends much of his time working in the UK. He arrived in the country as a drama student, took to the stage at an open mic comedy event for a bet - and the rest is history.

'I'm glad my original plans went awry,' he said. 'I'm doing what I like to do now.'

A regular performer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 2002, his career has led to him being invited to perform in venues the world over in places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Africa.

He is one of the few performers to have been nominated for the Perrier Award in three consecutive years - his debut Edinburgh show in 2002, I Said What I Said was nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer Award and his next two shows (White Woman in 2003 and A Mystery Wrapped In A Nigga in 2004) both received Perrier Award nominations.

In 2006, as well as performing in America for the first time, Reginald won the Writers' Guild Award for Comedy for his show Pride and Prejudice and Niggas, which he then presented for a season in London's West End and on a national tour of the UK.

He is a well-known face on primetime television shows such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI, and is a frequent guest on Have I Got News For You. He has also just finished starring alongside Andy Hamilton in BBC4's It's Only A Theory.

'I recognise that doing TV is part of this job but I believe it seldom makes art, and I view stand-up comedy as art. People are kind enough to extend all kinds of offers to me for TV but I can't do it all or I'd never sleep - and I like to sleep!

'Having my own hit TV series is not something that means much to me. I am interested in being a part of projects that are truthful or realistic - or even surrealistic.

'I am only interested in a certain flavour of TV, not TV for TV's sake,' he said.

But, he admits: 'Part of it is that I'm lazy. Money doesn't mean much to me. It has to be something I'm interested in. I don't get out of bed just because something is paid well.'

Reginald is non-committal about whether he plans to stay in the UK permanently. He says he enjoys the level of debate here - the fact serious discussions can be held without religion becoming an issue.

'That was something I longed for when I was growing up. People weren't as comfortable talking about some things there as they are here,' he said.

He also enjoys the geographical position of the UK - the fact that in London you are just as likely to meet people from Turkey, Poland or Russia as from the UK.

'I do think the audiences are different here too. People in the UK tend to have less nationalistic pride. It is much harder to offend the audience. If you are interesting and funny, you can talk about sex or even swear a bit - and they will give it a go.'And he added: 'I enjoy being able to do that and I love the fact I can focus just on comedy at the moment. 'I love stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy is my woman!'

t Reginald D Hunter appears at the Norwich Comedy Festival on June 16.