It’s nearly two years to the day since Reginald D Hunter stepped onto the stage at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel Park Lane to deliver his now infamous ‘N-word’ comedy routine at the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Award Ceremony.
The furore that followed balanced Hunter atop the pyramid of misguided hate figures and led the PFA, an organisation that is far from free of racism – either on or off field – to turn their back on him and feign outrage at his lack of censorship over the subject.
“It seemed like all of a sudden people were going out of their way to misunderstand what I was saying,” he begins. “The resident evil, that’s what I call the other side, they use mischaracterisation as a technique of debate; they love taking s*** out of context.”
A few months later and the controversy that had hung over him like a rain cloud suddenly opened, unleashing a storm of outrage when an audience member accused him of revelling in “misogyny and violence” during an online argument after walking out of his gig.
“My brain trust and everybody in my camp disagreed with me for engaging in that but around that time I was becoming aware of a lot of young cats, especially in stand-up comedy, looking up to me, and it was like somebody needs to show these young cats that you can take a stand and just say no. No you don’t get to just do this lady, an expression of yourself or your feelings does not mean you get to overlook others.
“It’s a skill expressing how you feel and this is someone that was saying my show was awful but left in the first 15 minutes. So I took it upon myself at the time to give her the public ass-whooping she was asking for.”
The backlash left Hunter feeling as if he’d, “hit a Titanic of outragers” and the outcome was a year spent away from his adoptive home country.
“After that tour the people who made money off of me, they were like ‘hey look, why don’t we get you out of the country for a little while’, so in 2014 I toured Australia, New Zealand, then I toured Eastern Europe, then I did a documentary and then I went home for several weeks.”
The documentary, Songs of the South, saw Hunter return to America’s deep south, where he was raised, to explore the musical heritage; an experience he found tougher than he expected.
“It was very difficult emotionally because I was being taken back, while being filmed, to the very stuff that I was trying to get the f*** away from,” he confesses. “It was just southern ignorance and southern ignorance I’ve come to find, is no greater than it is anywhere else but when it’s your home, it just seems maddening.”
As a man who has made a living through using self-loathing to his advantage, the trip down south became a life-changing experience, not only for his comedy but also personally. “I learned that self-loathing, which is one of Britain’s most popular indoor sports, occurs when you stop looking at yourself through your own personal choices and your own personal standards,” Hunter explains.
“I think self-loathing starts when you start appraising yourself through the eyes of others and often times when we try and see ourselves through the eyes of other people, we often choose people who don’t like us or have a problem with us, that’s when self-loathing occurs.
“I used to have a degree in self-loathing, being from the south, and this last trip home made me realise how absurd that was. In a world where a lot of people are against you, at least be on your own side.”
The 46-year-old comedian is embarking on his first UK tour since 2013’s controversial ‘In the Midst of Crackers’ with another uncompromising show, ‘The Man Who Attempted To Do As Much As Such’.
His final date of the tour will be in Sussex on June 28 when he visits the Brighton Dome and, though there hasn’t been a public backlash to this show, he is still finding trouble with it. “I’m enjoying parts of it but I’m doing a difficult show,” he says of the tour and how it has been effected by his trip down south. “It’s still effecting my stand-up, it’s one of the things that’s making the show tough.“I’m a different cat after I did the documentary and it’s like I’m still evolving, I’ve got an extra part of my brain back and I don’t know what to do with it.”
Despite enough cracks in the cloud hanging over him to let the sun break through, Hunter is never a man to hide away from the controversial tag that hangs around his neck, a consciousness he is well aware of.
“After the adventures of 2013 and all the social media fights and the PFA stuff, I’m trying to say stuff that won’t be troublesome for me and my listeners, I’m trying to avoid controversy, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to.”
Reginald D Hunter visits the Brighton Dome on June 28 with his show, The Man Who Attempted To Do As Much As Such, and for more information please visit www.brightondome.org