Reginald D Hunter Mystery Wrapped in a Nigga, Pleasance Cabaret, Edinburgh

Black comedy plays enthralling games in dangerous territory
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The Independent Culture

Last year, Reginald D Hunter found himself accused of racism; this year, he is making that accusation himself. His 2003 Perrier-nominated show White Woman was attacked by Alex O'Connell, the Perrier chair and then comedy critic of The Times, for being "flagrantly misogynist and enforcing racial stereotypes of black people". It was a criticism Hunter took in his stride, holding his hand up to the charges in an interview he gave at the time.

Last year, Reginald D Hunter found himself accused of racism; this year, he is making that accusation himself. His 2003 Perrier-nominated show White Woman was attacked by Alex O'Connell, the Perrier chair and then comedy critic of The Times, for being "flagrantly misogynist and enforcing racial stereotypes of black people". It was a criticism Hunter took in his stride, holding his hand up to the charges in an interview he gave at the time.

The whole point of the White Woman was to examine his reaction to women, expose fears, evolve and move on. Hunter views the Richard Pryor Award that is being given this year for best ethnic comedian as something more obviously damaging. During his act he brands the award "racist" and accuses it of lowering the bar.

"If you are a comedian, don't you want to be the best comedian, not the best black comedian or the best female comedian, or just the best?" Unsurprisingly, Hunter does not appear among the nominations for the award released on Wednesday (and include Ahmed Ahmed from the Axis of Evil Tour, Stephen K Amos, Danny Bhoy and Matt Blaize).

Mystery Wrapped in a Nigga is a looser effort than White Woman and is actually more beguiling. I found myself more attentive to what was being said and how it was being said. Hunter is a delight to listen to and it's sometimes hard to fathom that what he is saying could be construed as controversial, delivering punchlines and arguments without needing to raise his voice away from his measured, Deep South drawl.

Though resident over here for seven years, the American still has moments where he is the outsider looking in, for example to his girlfriend's fear of pikeys. He jokes, playing on the word Nigga, that they could give birth to Nikes. Hunter likes to play with race and invert perceived notions and I would be curious to see him in front of a predominantly black audience to see how his subtle and sometimes cheeky observations go down.

This is not going to happen in Edinburgh, so his routine about a group of black people arriving late to one of his gigs doesn't get a complete road test. How too would a mixed audience react to him asking if we had ever thought of Robert Mugabe as a human being. "Even Hitler liked photography," he reminds us.

Candid to the point of confession, Hunter opens the door on his evolving attitude towards women and sex. He tells us the prism of his sexual thought encompasses women from the ages of 14 to 85, that just for a fleeting moment he is assessing their sexual potential. His musings may sound unpalatable but he lays it all on with the milk and honey of his delivery, a cocktail with quite a kick.

Even-handed but provocative, Hunter may meander through his ideas at times but he is unlikely to miss the point.

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