Opinion: Reginald D Hunter and the Problem with Corporate Gigs

reg hunter

This Reginald D Hunter issue still seems to be rumbling on nearly a week after his appearance at the PFA dinner. To quickly recap, Hunter did a set in which he used the n-word and has ruffled feathers because the issue of racism is so sensitive in the football profession. There has been talk about Hunter returning his fee but, as yet I don't think he has done this.

The story does raise all sorts of conflicting issues. Just using the n-word does not necessarily mean he was telling racist jokes. In fact having seen most of Hunter's shows over the last decade I'm as confident as one can be that he is not racist, so how could he be telling racist jokes? Taking about race, yes. Racist no. The use of the n-word perhaps triggered a knee jerk reaction. Maybe people needed to listen more closely to the context.

I haven't seen any YouTube clips yet, but like everybody else interested in the story I have seen the Facebook photos of Hunter's post-gig meet-and-greet with satisfied customers of all races and sexes. So who actually was offended, or was it that old chestnut of people being offended on other people's behalf?

One only needs to look at Hunter's past tour titles – 2006's Pride and Prejudice and Niggas, for example – to get a flavour of what his thoughtful live performances might touch on. The irony is that his current tour, In The Midst of Crackers, unusually doesn't use the n-word in the title.

So far I'm totally on Hunter's side. But, excuse the cliche, it's a game of two halves. There is another less-discussed side to this issue. The corporate gig circuit has always been a thorny subject for comedians. It is OK for rock bands to perform for financiers and oligarchs because they rarely have a political agenda in their music. Comedians are traditionally social commentators, society's outsiders, so should they be doing these kind of gigs at all?

The trouble is that corporate gigs are so ludicrously well paid they are clearly hard to resist. I'm sure plenty of stand-ups will say that they do them but hate them – the audiences are difficult or disinterested, they are too thick or too drunk to get the jokes  – but how can you refuse a five figure sum for an evening's work? And frankly who can blame them? I'm sure there are comedians who have a bad corporate, vow "never again", then a few weeks later are tempted by more pound signs. Only yesterday someone was telling me about a UK comedian who flew all the way to Australia just to do one corporate gig. The cheque must have outweighed the horrendous jet lag.

Maybe the booking process was at fault. The PFA should have thought more closely about who was available and played it a touch more safe. There are plenty of comedians out there who just do generic observational material and would not scare the horses. Perhaps next time they should try for Michael McIntyre – I would imagine he would be pricey but everyone would love him. He would not cause such a fuss and I'm sure he could do with the extra few quid.

On the plus side this whole business has hardly red-carded Reg Hunter's career. It may have been a coincidence, but a few days after this incident I received the following email from Hunter's publicist: "due to fantastic ticket sales we are pleased to announce a further set of autumn dates for Reginald’s new show In The Midst Of Crackers." 

I don't know how many footballers will be buying tickets, but there is clearly no such thing as bad publicity. 

Hunter's tour dates are here


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