American comedian Rich Hall is back on the road with a new tour. He talks to Chris Bond about honing his craft and why he’s tired of Donald Trump jokes.
BEFORE last year’s US Presidential election, the comedian Rich Hall said that if Donald Trump won he would quit appearing on TV. His opinion of the business mogul-turned politician is perhaps best summed up in his song, The Ballad of Donald Trump, when he says: “How can a man control the people when he can’t even control his hair?”
He was, needless to say, left stunned when Trump was elected, though thankfully he hasn’t carried out his threat and this autumn he’s back on the road with his new Hoedown tour.
What starts out as a withering dissection of Trump’s America ends up in a celebration of all things Americana, with a good dollop of stand-up and improvised ballads thrown in for good measure.
Hall, who’s now 63, carries the look of a world-weary country and western musician and since first arriving in the UK some 20 years ago has become well known for his grouchy demeanour and deadpan delivery.
“In the US you played in a lot of clubs and maybe got five minutes on a late night talk show. But when I came over here suddenly I saw a different way of doing comedy. You could go to places like Beverley where they have a theatre, and do shows there,” he says.
He’s bringing his latest show to Leeds next week before heading to Beverley later in the year. “The further north I go the more appreciation I find for the roots of country music.”
Hall started out as a street performer in Seattle before graduating to the comedy club circuit and now divides his time between here and the US. “There’s an advantage to being an outsider because you can give people a perspective of themselves they don’t necessarily see,” he says. “It’s said that comedy is the truth and it’s not really – it’s an exaggerated truth.”
Which brings us back to President Trump. “There’s an expectation that if you’re an American you have to talk about Trump. You’re having to compete with every comic so you have to find something different.
“But what’s interesting to me is the idea that Trump is symptomatic of what’s going on in America right now. It’s no longer Democrats versus Republicans, it’s pro-Trump and anti-Trump and it’s in danger of turning into a civil war unless people start to calm down.”
He concedes that Trump is good for comedy but says this comes with a caveat. “With George W Bush you’d make fun of him and called him an idiot. But Trump’s not an idiot, he’s more than that and it’s actually quite scary.”
At least being a comedian enables him to vent his spleen and though he’s become a familiar face on TV panel shows in this country, it’s stand-up where his real passion lies. “A lot of comics stop doing stand-up once they don’t have to, they go and become TV presenters and you realise they don’t have the love for it.
“Personally, I’d much rather be on stage than on TV. I think it’s the fact that it’s your show and nobody else’s and I like that.”
Rich Hall is appearing at West Yorkshire Playhouse on October 7, and Beverley’s Parkway Theatre, on December 6.