I spent last night at a comedy event at Dublin’s Vicar Street: Europe’s favourite black American comedian, Reginald D. Hunter supported by rent-a-shocker ‘Aussie c***’ Steve Hughes.
I’ve been a big fan of Hunter – how challenges accepted points of view, particularly those relating to the relationships between blacks & whites and I was looking forward to hearing what he had to say. I might have been more minded to give him a chance to win me over if I hadn’t had to spend an hour beforehand listening to Hughes first.
He started well; throwing out c-bombs and face-claspingly shocking jokes with abandon. And, like the comedians he obviously worships (Bill Hicks for example), his shock-tactics had a point – to make us think. From checking YouTube, they also appeared to be about 2 to 3 years old, but anyway. Things then took a turn for the worse.
Hughes thinks of himself as an intelligent man, misunderstood by the world and one of the few who can see the ‘self-evident’ truths that surround us. Most of these self-evident truths seem to involve a global conspiracy, or ‘Orwellian nightmare’ as he kept describing it; some of them involved meandering monologues on the injustice of making marijouana ilegal whilst prescribing things like Ritalin to children. And he has a point.
Unfortunately, he’s obviously such a pot-head himself that he’s started to think that his stoned ramblings mark him out as a philosopher, rather than someone who would be useful to have around the house if you wanted to make sure that there was a 24 hour supply of Rizlas.
He touched the bottom when he started spouting some conspiracy theory bullshit suggesting that Gaddafi was overthrown due to a plan to only sell his oil for gold (something that, as this post explains, he’d been suggesting for about 20 years, generally to a response composed of utter indifference by the rest of the world).
His implied meaning was clear; that Gaddafi was some sort of people’s hero, martyred by the nasty west. You don’t have to be a fan of the West’s foreign policy over the last 10 years to be able to see that Gaddafi’s fall was because the West didn’t want to be on the wrong side of the majority opinion of a Middle East striving to achieve democracy.
Worryingly it seemed, chatting to people during the break, that people were buying this crap – one person even started to lecture me on how it had been the British who had created Israel because we’d owned Palestine at the time. I do hope that guy is spending today reading Wikipedia.
Hughes also had a go at his twin pet hates of political correctness and health & safety. He didn’t seem to have any idea that these two concepts had utterly pure motives behind them at the start and have, by and large, been ruined by the fact that the right wing press around the world, the sort of papers that Hughes would probably run from if they tried to adopt him as a spokesperson*, have taken these concepts and made things up about them. The recent Winterval farce is a perfect example.
Steve Hughes then, ends up sounding like a Daily Mail reader with a drug problem. Middle-England with a massive skunk addiction. Someone without the self-awareness to realise that political correctness was developed to stop people using words that do have a power to hurt, to misuse language and symbolism to hold entire groups of people down.
When someone shouted out “Aussie c***”, he suggested that because he didn’t mind being called this, no-one else should object to offensive language. I’d challenge him to ask a native Australian whether being turned down for a job only for the HR person to mumble ‘Abbo bastard’ under their breath as they walked out the room whether they’d be so understanding. Those who live in a position of power never feel that words and symobilsm can hurt, because it can’t hurt them.
I also wonder whether the families of those who lost their lives in mines which had no safety systems because it would cost profits, or those who lost fathers to asbestos, would find his jokes about health & safety so amusing. I’m guessing not.
Steve Hughes thinks he’s a revolutionary, pointing out the contradictions of the world, an intellectual with a gift for one-liners. He’s not. He’s a pot-head with a microphone and a filthy mouth: funny, but far from intelligent or even insightful. He’s obviously watched a lot of Bill Hicks, but I’m not sure he ever listened.
After an hour of Hughes, Hunter could have come out on stage and farted and it would have felt like Nobel winning stuff. In many ways, that’s exactly what he did.
His gags were tired, lazy and often obvious. The only thing that really made them strand out was the fact that they were being told by a black-man in front of an audience of white people, all of whom (myself included) got a little thrill of excitement every time he used the n word, all delivered with a beautifully courteous southern drawl.
There were jokes about the English, a painfully obvious thing to do to get cheap laughs in front of an Irish crowd. He made jokes about the difference between the sexes that would get Jim Davidson bottled out of the venue, but everyone chuckled away here. And he ended by victimising a member of the audience and calling her a retard because she dared to disagree with his lofty philospohical insight that we all need to have looked at our own arseholes.
Like a school bully made to look like an idiot, he lashed out, all with his lazy deep south drawl that allows him to get away with murder: I was amazed he would call someone a retard after all the fuss about Ricky Gervais, but am guessing that he’s been too stoned to have noticed that furore – he, in common with Hughes, appeared to be of the opinion that what the audince really wants is someone performing as if they’ve just been reenacting the Camberwell carrot scene from Withnail & I, though at least Withnail & I is funny.
As with Hughes, he appeared to have no problem telling us we shouldn’t have a problem with words (his assertion that his use of the word faggotry to describe things he didn’t like wasn’t homophobic would have been worthy of that well known equal-rights champion Tyler the Creator), but left me wondering whether he would have been so amused if the woman in the audience had responded to his hilarious description of her as a retard in the style of Luis Suarez. It would have been indefensible, but then so were Hunter & Hughes. Amazingly it seems that she didn’t mind, and that’s her look-out. It doesn’t change the fact that Hunter’s language is out of date, much like a lot of his material.
Sticks and stones by Al Muya on flickr