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Features / Comedian Hall’s hoedown set for Clickimin

Rich Hall performing last year. Photo: John Zumpano.

AMERICAN musical comedian Rich Hall returns to Shetland with his Hoedown band in tow this week – and promises a show that begins with a “withering dissection” of the US under Donald Trump and ends up in a “celebration of Americana”.

The grouchy, deadpan comic previously entertained islanders at Mareel two years ago in a two-hour country-comedy cocktail featuring an accompanying guitarist.

This time the Perrier award-winner will take to the stage at Clickimin’s Bowls Hall with fuller musical backing for a night promising a “precision dismantling of the tenuous relationship” between Britain and America that is “as freewheeling and deadly accurate as ever”.

The Shetland date on Wednesday (21 February) is one of seven nights in Scotland on a tour that also takes in a four-night stint at Leicester Square in London’s illustrious West End.

He has fronted a series of acclaimed BBC Four documentaries in recent years including Rich Hall’s Countrier Than You and Rich Hall’s Presidential Breakdown, as well as Rich Hall’s (US Election) Breakdown, helping him to build a new legion of followers, while he regularly guests on a host of TV panel shows.

Hall talks of his relish for performing live: “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,” he says. “It can’t be replicated. That’s a great magical moment.”

He tends to go out of his way to find out about the different towns and cities he plays before building some snippets into his act: “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.

“Once they [the audience] 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.”

The comedian released his third stand-up DVD Rich Hall: 3:10 to Humour last November, and is credited as one of a handful of performers able to successfully combine comedy and music in the same act.

“Music works in my show because it connects with people on a very personal level,” Hall says. “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.”

Another of Hall’s trademarks is anger, which he also uses to comedic ends: “It is always good to articulate anger,” he says. “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!”