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Rich Hall’s Hoedown brings the US comic to Frome this December

Rich Hall is rightly regarded as one of the funniest comedians to come out of the US in recent times. And, as he is based here most of the time, we in this country have over the past three decades been lucky enough to benefit from his wonderfully grouchy sense of humour.

Now, says interviewer James Rampton, we are about to enjoy more of his unique, crotchety comedy, as he is setting off on a nationwide tour with his brilliant ‘Hoedown’ with a stop off at the Memorial Theatre on Saturday 2nd December.

The comedian is the most dazzlingly funny curmudgeon in The West. Rich’s straight-talking and acerbic comedy leaves his targets reeling and his audiences in stitches. He is a superb live performer but don’t just take my word for it. Critics have long praised Rich’s highly original deadpan style (which was the inspiration for the marvelously cantankerous barman, Moe Szyslak, in The Simpsons).

The Guardian raves that, “Now is the time to grab this chance to see the great man at work”. The Sunday Mirror, meanwhile, calls the comedian, “Captivating and brilliant… His ability to make the room guffaw was worthy of standing applause”. While The Sun’s review is short and sweet: “Rich Hall is a comedy phenomenon”. Quite.

In the run-up to the tour, Rich takes some time out to chat with me and he begins by underlining how excited he is to be performing live once again. “I love being on stage,” he says. “I love the fact that when a live show is over, it’s gone. It’s happened, and it will never happen like that again. It can’t be replicated. That’s a great magical moment.”

Rich thrives on the spontaneity of live comedy. He observes that, “In every single show, there are always two or three moments where I’m thinking, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ You’re constantly thinking on your feet.”

One of the many unique features of Rich’s act is that he goes out of his way to find out about the town he is playing in and then improvises a song on stage about it. He goes the extra mile to tailor-make his material for that particular venue. “I try to tap into what is happening locally and address that musically by writing an improvised song based on the town I’m in.”

Audiences really appreciate this bespoke comedy. “Once they realise you’re not just trotting out your regular act, people think, ‘He’s made a real effort. He’s on our side, so we’re on his side.” Then you can take them anywhere.

“I like to do something custom-made every night, otherwise you would just be like a robot. That can really wear you down. Nobody gets more sick of hearing their own voice than a comedian.”

Rich, who was also enjoyed huge success as his country and western musician alter ego, Otis Lee Crenshaw, carries on that, “When you’re improvising a song, you think, ‘I may never do this on again, but it’s a special moment for everyone here.’ You want to reach the point where audiences say, ‘I’d like to see that guy again’. You want to deliver the goods and be Old Reliable.”

The stand-up is one of only a handful of performers who can genuinely combine comedy and music in one act.

He says, “I will have such a great collection of musicians on stage for the Hoedown. Having a band there makes it a much richer experience – if you’ll pardon the phrase! Music works in my show because it connects with people on a very personal level. A lot of comedians just come on stage and say, ‘I was on a bus and I passed so and so.

“But that’s just a reaction to something rather than a specific, custom-made song that engages people. The magic is more important than the material. People really respond to that.”

The stand-up’s other trademark is anger, and he is capable of using that to very effective comic ends. Rich comments that, “It is always good to articulate anger.

“If you don’t, you’re merely preaching to the converted and asking, ‘Have you ever noticed?’ Yes, we are paying you to notice things we haven’t already noticed!”

Before he has to go, Rich reflects once more on what he loves so much about touring. “I’m not a big showbiz hound,” he muses, “but for me being on stage is the most satisfying thing imaginable.”

A sentiment with which Rich’s legions of fans would no doubt wholeheartedly agree.

Tickets for Rich Hall’s Hoedown tour can be found at www.offthekerb.co.uk or visit the Memorial Theatre website at www.fmt.website or find the Memorial Theatre on  Facebook or Twitter.

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