Apr 30, 2014 Theatre
Tuesday 29 April, 2014
Before he started his rape joke, Reginald D. Hunter asked somebody in the audience what the time was. They told him 8.25. “8.25?” he replied, apparently surprised, then said something like: “We haven’t even got to the real shit yet.”
The show was supposed to finish at 8. In hindsight, that might have been a plan to stick to. He asked an assistant to get him a vodka to help him through what was to come.
Comedians push boundaries because that’s where humour is. But the term comedian does not define a single class of person. Reginald D. Hunter uses the N-word a lot. It has got him into plenty of trouble, but he’s black and he’s from Georgia so he has some claim on that term. But when he tells a rape joke, he has no claim. Does anyone?
The rape joke was a drawn out, harrowing tale about ‘a friend’. It was difficult to sit through. At the end, the friend said that the rape hadn’t affected her trust in all men – she knew she could still trust Reg, for instance, because they had been friends for 10 years and he had never done anything to her.
He replied: “I didn’t know you wouldn’t call the police.”
He explained the punchline, because he has presumably found some previous audience members too thin-skinned or unintelligent to get it. He said it’s about encouraging raped women to call the police. But is that really what he was thinking when he wrote that joke? That he was making some sort of public service announcement? If so, shouldn’t the need to explain it now cause him to question its effectiveness?
Around this time, a couple of people walked out. Later, Hunter said the show hadn’t been his best, that he was still feeling out the New Zealand audience, figuring out what we liked, by which I think he meant, ‘How far can I go before they think I’m a prick?’ He offered to give free tickets to his later festival shows to anyone who contacted him with genuine complaints or issues about the performance.
His show was sometimes funny and will probably get funnier as he figures us out. He’s angry about a lot of stuff, which is great, because our effed-up world demands action, anger spurs action, and good comedy is the ultimate delivery mechanism for anger.
But toward the end of his show, after the rape joke and its resultant discomforts had settled heavily across the room, he insulted a woman at a front table for the look on her face, having noticed she hadn’t been laughing much. I bet she left feeling angry, and she wasn’t the only one.