Comedian, actor, author, playwright and quite possibly the lovechild of Tommy Lee Jones and the Simpson’s Moe Szyslak, American funny man Rich Hall is an all round ‘stand up’ guy. Fresh from regular performances on our best telly shows in the UK, he’s embarked on a mammoth live tour and we caught up with him in Nottingham four dates in.
You had the responsibility for opening the new Glee club recently…
I didn’t really think about it that much. The expectations are that it’s going to be a good show regardless of whether it’s a new club or not. I’ve got to come out and be the best Rich Hall that I can. Everything seemed to go fine.
You interact a lot with the crowd – how much of the show is pre written and how much is off the cuff?
A lot of it is written, at some point it got written down and worked out. It’s kind of a safety net. It’s always there and eventually you get round to it but because I have that, I have a tremendous amount of confidence to go off and people are there thinking, ‘oh is he making this up?’ well then, some of it’s not made up, it’s kind of a mixture of both. Even a song that apparently sounds improvised has some structure to it otherwise you wouldn’t know what to play. So, I know where I’m going. But I think it creates an element of originality, It’s more fun for me if I try and wing it a bit.
And of course, you have several hundred dates to do.
Yea, and they’re not all going to be as glamorous as Nottingham, there’s Yeovil, er, some real shit holes. Nottingham is one of the more classy gigs.
As a US comedian, you’ve done a lot of stuff in the UK, how do you find the difference over here to the US?
It’s not a lot different, I don’t really change, I haven’t developed some different persona for the British audience, this is what I do. I work in the UK and I work in the US as well and obviously there’s things I can talk about here that Brits can relate to and if I talked about in America they wouldn’t be interested and vice versa. But in America it’s still my sense of humour, I still do what I think is funny.
Americans are actually used to people staying on the script. American comedians are a bit slicker and a bit more polished and a bit more ‘this is what I’ve written, this is what I’m going to do’ and so when you kinda come out of that and actually talk to them, they really sometimes go ‘ahh, woah!’ I think they’re probably more impressed than Brits about that. Brits want you to talk to them, they kind of want you to break the barrier and acknowledge where you are. I want to entertain myself as well and the only way to do that on stage is to keep it interactive.
In the show you talked about President Obama, do you think the time has come when it’s OK to ‘diss’ him? Do you really think he’s doing a bad job?
Er, I had higher expectations. He seems to be doing lots of things for his self accomplishment, like pushing through a health care programme, that’s great but it seems more like ‘look what I did and what the last president didn’t do.’ But that doesn’t really affect me and it’s a bureaucratic mess. I don’t know, I think by nature I’m going to be sceptical of anyone and I was very celebratory about when he got elected and I was very much for him, and I’m still for him, but it’s been two years now and there’s a lot of unrest in America and a lot of money just being wasted.
Britain has a sort of slash and burn kind of approach to being in recession, Britain’s going to cut and cut and cut and you’re going to have to sit back and take it. And America’s trying to pretend that nothing’s wrong, and it’s not working, there’s a lot of f**king unemployment and a lot of stuff going under you know. I’m from a small town so I see it really manifest itself very specifically, there’s a bar that was open two weeks ago and now it’s closed. I don’t know, it’s two different approaches. Americans are blind or something, Obama’s such an eloquent speaker I think he’s convinced people to do stuff but I think he’s convinced them to do the wrong thing.
Maybe it’s a sign that the president doesn’t run the country but the people behind him do?
Well there’s a lot of bitterness between parties. I don’t give a f**k whether you’re Democrat or Republican, it drives me nuts. Americans are like ‘oh I’m a Democrat because my dad was a Democrat’ so you follow the party line when in fact you might have some really conservative ideas about certain things. I refuse to tow either party line.
I think there should be some real conservative stuff done in America so people say ‘oh you sound like a Republican’ well, no I’m not but I think this needs to be done it’s pretty austere and maybe it’s right wing but it depends on the issue. Electing Obama was such a big moment in America, it’s an achievement, it kind of overshadows so much other stuff you know. If Obama wasn’t a black president, he’d just be a kind of good president, like Clinton, to be honest I think at this point in his tenure, Clinton had accomplished a lot more.
So he’s in danger of being a token gesture?
No, it’s not token because it’s very significant gesture. But if the greatest achievement happened before he set foot in office, because he went in there a black president, then it would be sad. If I could predict it now, I’d say Hilary Clinton is gonna be the next president of the United States.
Setting new ground?
Yea, and Obama would have paved the way for it. Then he’d be like ‘oh great, I’m the black guy that made a woman president’ but I kinda think Hilary would be a better administrator, it’s hard to say. I’m as impatient as anybody, I just want the economy to get better you know, turn Detroit around, get the f**k out of Afghanistan get out of Iraq, stop wasting money on something you can’t win and start making cars that run on grass, do something!
It’s clear that it can be turned around really quickly if you’re someone who’s not led by huge global corporations… Or greed, greed is worse, you say corporations but I actually say greed and greed isn’t a corporate thing, there’s so much f**king greed. And there was so much money that was made and things had so much value, overvalued to a point where, lets say you have a house that’s worth a million dollars and now a real estate agent comes along and says it’s only worth 700,000 and you’re thinking ‘but it was worth a million so I’m not going to sell it for 700,000 because it was worth a million’, but it’s not now! People have a hard time letting go of that, and there’s a certain amount of greed in that. Think about cars and all that, you can go back to the 60s and 70s when they paid people to design f**king kick ass cars and that’s true all over the world. The minute someone designs a really good looking car no-one will give a f**k what it runs on. ‘Oh I gotta have that, what does it run on?’ Canolo oil? Ok, then put canolo oil in…as long as it looks cool.
This article was originally published in November 2010.