American comedy grouch Rich Hall in Norwich for a post-election comic Hoedown
PUBLISHED: 08:29 23 November 2016 | UPDATED: 08:29 23 November 2016
© 2012 Rab Cummings
In the aftermath of the American elections wonderfully acerbic American-born comedian Rich Hall returns to Norwich and he will be bringing his grouchy, deadpan style and rapid-fire wit to his latest musical Hoedown. He tells JAMES RAMPTON more.
Rich Hall is rightly 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.
Now we are about to enjoy more of his unique, crotchety comedy, as he arrives in Norwich with his musical show Rich Hall’s Hoedown.
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.
His straight-talking and acerbic comedy leaves his targets reeling and his audiences in stitches. He sends up whichever country he is in, but perhaps reserves his most trenchant scorn for his native USA.
Rich, who has presented such critically acclaimed BBC4 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. “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 B*******, 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.”
Ever the traveller this latest tour began in the Scottish islands.
“I’m loved going to the nether regions of Scotland,” says Rich, who won two Emmys writing for The David Letterman Show in the US. “Every year I try to tour out of the way places. Last year it was Norway. This year it was the Hebrides. I like to go to places where I’m not worried about competition from other comedians! Audiences also love the fact that you have made the effort to play there.”
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.
The comedian explains: “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.”
Audiences really appreciate this bespoke comedy. “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.”
The stand-up is one of only a handful of performers who can genuinely combine comedy and music in one act. To that end, Rich will be bringing his incredibly entertaining Hoedown show to Norwich Playhouse for three nights on November 26-28.
He says: “I will have such a great collection of musicians on stage for the Hoedown. Having a full band there makes it a much richer experience - if you’ll pardon the phrase!
“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: “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 — he has had plenty of material to study this time. American politics is bound to feature in his new show.
The comic will certainly be addressing President Elect Donald J Trump. How could he not…
• Rich Hall’s Hoedown, Norwich Playhouse, November 26-28, 8pm, £17 (£15 cons), 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk