Reginald D Hunter, Isy Suttie and Romesh Ranganathan
In Collaboration with Glasgow International Comedy Festival
Reginald D Hunter
King’s Theatre, 24th March 2016
The first word that springs to mind when describing Reginald D Hunter’s set is “sharp.” His flow is not seamless, pausing to consider his next words or phrasing, but once he is there his delivery is confident and full of conviction. These pauses seem genuine – Hunter is so engaging because he comes across as someone who just wants to explore parts of life he finds interesting for humour. He notes that people find things he says offensive, but nothing suggests he is out to cause offence, but rather, find humour in places where it may not be immediately apparent.
So when he says he believes every comedian should tackle one subject that could be the end of their career, he ends the thought with “feminism.” Everything that follows is more playful than offensive. His musings on ‘no-platforming’ people are no more hurtful than the millions of Guardian thinkpieces we have been subjected to.
If examining comedy for socio-political outrage is something we want to do, then what is immediately clear is that, as a tall, black American from Georgia, Hunter stands out in a room mostly filled with white Glaswegians. His jokes about how he can get into a debate with a policeman here and not get shot are met with uproarious laughter, but this is no more or less offensive than his feminism jokes – the audience is just so white it is a part of life that will never affect us.
But Hunter is a storyteller and a comedian. He knows that the otherness of blackness in the south of America is something we know little about, and hearing some hilarious family stories, or crazy situations he gets himself into are a breath of fresh air because of that very same otherness. He explores clashing identities and cultures, muses over gender identities, and stays on the right side of British politics by allowing boos for any mention of David Cameron and pre-empting any mention of Alex Salmond with “let’s not lose our minds now.”
This was a one-off appearance, which he and the audience seemed to enjoy. The next time he rolls through Glasgow it will be with a new show, and it had been a while since he had performed. Still relaxed, still sharp as anything, and still a natural storyteller.
[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]
Isy Suttie: The Actual One
The Stand Comedy Club, 15th March 2016
Although it might appear as a cynical advertisement for her new book The Actual One, Isy Suttie’s The Actual Book Tour washes away this cynicism by giving an earnest show that might replicate the book’s material but delivers laughs that you just won’t get through print.
The show’s premise is Suttie’s reconciliation that she can’t be young forever and has to face the prospect of joining her old mates in growing up and getting boring. She relives the antics of her youth such as meeting an old boyfriend wearing nothing but a tatty fur coat, constructing a towering papier mâché penguin in an attempt to save a dying relationship, and overly bohemian flatmates, all of which laments the passing of youthful dalliances while acknowledging such a lifestyle is an ultimately unsustainable one.
Despite the melancholy subject matter the tone is hilariously whimsical, with the audience getting to both laugh with and at Suttie. Her storytelling style is like you’ve found the most interesting person at a flat party and want to hear her anecdotes all night. Depending on your own life experiences you might find her youth worryingly relatable or just utterly cringeworthy, but either way Suttie is just too likeable for you not to be on her side, and this makes you laugh at her foibles.
Peppered throughout the show is a number of songs, and the whole show’s theme of love makes for a couple of unnecessary verses, since a slow love song’s metre can mess with the pace of a comedy set, but they never break things up too much and Suttie’s voice is pleasant enough to make the songs enjoyable in themselves rather than just a three-minute punchline.
Glasgow Comedy Festival’s lineup may be disappointingly male, but Isy Suttie goes much further than just making up numbers. And if the book is as funny as the show it would be definitely worth picking up.
[Jimmy Donaghy @JimmyDonagee]
Romesh Ranganathan: Irrational
Garage, 13th March 2016
The wave of uproarious laughter that greets Romesh Ranganathan’s first joke is a testament to his popularity: his appealing brand of mock misanthropy is one which engages the audience immediately, ruminating on topics such as family, his weight, Gogglebox and his Sri Lankan heritage. His initial reference to his BBC3 show Asian Provocateur, which has recently been recommissioned for a second series, is met with a knowing cheer and jokes about the popularity of his scene-stealing mother – who is clearly a fan favourite – resonate with the audience, indicating their familiarity with his previous TV work, which has certainly been prolific in the past few months.
Jokes about deporting his mother aside, there’s not much that Ranganathan attempts throughout his Irrational tour that doesn’t provoke ebullient laughter. His comedic routine is self-knowingly rambling, deviating into alternative topics so seamlessly that the audience don’t quite realise they’ve been diverted. He is also consistently funny, a sense of continuity arguably more important than the range of his material, which is fresh, witty and relevant, discovering moments of comedic potential in every small interaction: although his humour typically revolves around himself rather than a more observational approach, it is a method that shows off his characteristic grumpiness to its best, bringing out the inner cynic in us all – even if you have to question exactly how much of the scepticism is part of a cultivated stage persona.
Ranganathan’s set ends on a Q&A encore – one which aims to ‘spin gold’ out of irreverent questions from the audience, but his reliance upon crowd work feels lazy at points and ultimately falls a bit flat when the questions turn out to be insufficient material with which to spin this elusive gold. A final big laugh would have been a welcome finish to an otherwise successful routine, but the end is, nevertheless, all too soon when the comedian ultimately leaves the stage.