Reginald D Hunter On Sepp Blatter, Racism And Herman Cain
“Racism is hilarious. It’s only uptight people who don’t know it.”
American comedian Reginald D Hunter's controversially named shows Trophy Nigga and Pride and Prejudice...And Niggas aren’t for the faint hearted.
The use of the 'n-word' saw his posters banned from the London Underground and the Writer’s Guild Award for comedy.
Yet Hunter was not put off and midway through his new tour Sometimes Even The Devil Tells The Truth, the stand-up still seeks to reclaim racism comically.
But can racism ever really be funny? President of Fifa Sepp Blatter is fighting disgrace for denying racism in football, and even David Cameron has weighed into the debate, saying ‘now is not the time for complacency' in the battle against racism.
The combative comic defends himself: “Comedy uses racism a lot because it’s hilarious.”
“Racism is absurd; it is not based on anything that’s real. It’s an imaginary construct so it’s right to be made fun of."
Contradicting people who claim not to find racism funny, Hunter clarifies:
“It’s true that people who experience racism often are more likely to make light of it, I know people who run into it very rarely are usually really stunned by it. They’re like AAAA Ohmigod!” Hunter's deep Southern drawl booms down the phone line.
Hunter became passionate about Sepp Blatter and demands for his resignation after denying racism in football. The comedian doesn’t follow football, but he ironically remarks “I do like racism.”
“All these people who are condemning Blatter and feel so strongly about racism, I’d like to know what else they are doing to combat racism if it means that much to them. That would be interesting.
“It is easy to take a grand stand, to lean into someone and be loud about a popular position, especially a popular, unpopular position. It’s easy to do that, a child can do that."
As criticism surrounds 75-year-old Blatter, he finds an unlikely supporter in the American comedian. Hunter is from Georgia, an American state with a history of extreme racism. Hunter articulates why anyone calling for Sepp Blatter’s resignation has missed the point.
"Getting rid of this man does not solve any problems. It doesn’t fix racism.
"What, you can’t get to the racist, so you are going to attack the person who doesn’t think it exists?
"All that is just to make mainstream society politically and emotionally calm by leaning into someone and making an example of them. It’s a waste of time."
When asked what should be done to combat discrimination, Hunter speaks with a resignation that reveals the underlying seriousness behind his comedic send-up of racists and racism.
"It’s not a matter of doing something in particular to combat racism, you can’t issue enough fines to get people out of racism. You can’t bully people out of racism.
"In fact racism, or at least disliking people who are not from your tribe, that is centuries old.
"Racism is absurd, and it is also vain and it makes human beings seem to feel like they control way more than they do.
"You have to evolve out of that. You can nudge people in the right direction but you can’t make someone not be racist, any more than it takes more than just a few years to make someone a racist."
Taking on old Etonian actor Dominic West , Hunter explained why Americans "do racism so much better than British people" when the pair appeared on panel show Have I Got News For You two years ago.
"If a class system is what you use to discriminate against people who look like you, that's an advanced form of racism. Britain has racism, it's just not very good at it. Y'all give it a go. But I mean ginger haired people....that ain't even a race, but y'all lay into them."
Much of Hunter’s comedy plays on the differences between his native America and adopted home in Britain. His forthright American observations sit uneasily with the polite formalities of the conservative British, and Hunter exploits that discomfort for comic effect.
He once made BBC Breakfast presenter Sian Williams cry with laughter after a tongue-in-cheek exchange with her presenter Bill Turnbull.
But despite making fun of the British, on an international level Hunter says America is still "just Britain’s younger brother with a gun".
Asserting that British people should be interested in American politics, he told Huffington Post UK:
“Britain still owns America. The largest foreign business person in America is British. In the 80's, America was scared that here come the Japanese, but now it’s BP, British Petroleum. There are a lot of British interests over there.”
However he admits that recent news coverage of American politician Herman Cain has made him hugely ashamed.
Presidential candidate Cain also has a background in Georgia, as a business man and radio host. Despite being preferred by some voters as "a more authentic black man" than Barack Obama, his political campaign has been marred with so much controversy that race is now little more than incidental.
Hunter drew an audible intake of breath and let out a low chuckle when asked about the presidential candidate currently facing allegations of sexual harassment.
"Herman Cain, now that I am embarrassed about, that is something I’m profoundly embarrassed about."
"I find it embarrassing on every level it is possible to be embarrassed. I find it embarrassing as a man, as an American, as a black man.... as a person who wears clothes, everything about his performance has been embarrassing."
Herman Cain has hit the headlines both here and in the US for astounding gaffes, the latest seeing him confused over the Middle East, claiming that the Taliban are in Libya.
"I think his news coverage has been a hilarious distraction. I think there is an active attempt to undermine the American political system and part of the way to do this is from the inside, by not only allowing clowns like Herman Cain to run for the presidency, but to constantly report on it.
"People like him and Sarah Palin, so what, they are starting to represent the American political experience, and they are contributors to its downfall."
Reginald D. Hunter's first DVD, Reginald D. Hunter Live, is released on 14 November. Catch him on Dave’s One Night Stand, where he will return to his comedy roots alongside two other comedians: Thursdays 9pm on Dave.