Reginald D Hunter: When Football, Comedy And Context Collide
When the PFA decided to have comic Reginald D Hunter perform at their awards ceremony last Sunday, surely they must have known what was to come. Today on the blog Football Ramble presenter and comedian Jim Campbell shares his thoughts on the controversy.
On Sunday the PFA thought it would be a brilliant idea to book comedian Reginald D Hunter to perform at their annual awards. What followed is what they would have known would follow if they'd done even the slightest bit of research into the act they were booking, mainly that he repeatedly said the word....well, the n-bomb. This is a man who once did a show called Pride and Prejudice...and Niggas, which was followed by The Only Apple in the Garden of Eden...and Niggas. At last year's Edinburgh Festival he did a work in progress show called Work in Progress...and Niggas. You get the picture. It's like booking Michael McIntyre and being surprised at him wobbling his head. Now they want their fee back.
PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes said:
“There were anti-Jewish jokes, there were anti-women jokes, there were anti-Irish jokes, there was the repeat use of the ‘n’ word. If you were looking for a scenario of absolutely everything we wouldn’t want on the night, I think you had a montage there.”
Obviously I wasn't there (incredibly I wasn't nominated for anything) but I've seen Reginald D Hunter live. He's one of the most intelligent, articulate and thought provoking comics I've ever seen. There is absolutely no way that any of the jokes Barnes is talking about would have been “anti” anyone. There is always a point to him discussing these things. Hunter himself described the event as: “Irony's annual night off”. It sounds to me like the people who were offended have simply heard words they think they're not meant to like and ignored the context that they were in, an inexcusably thick use of your ears and brain.
You can see how offended the majority of the audience were on the night in photos that Hunter posted on Facebook.
To be fair to the PFA they did tell him that “swearing or racist references were to be avoided”. To also be fair to the PFA: Do your research, you clowns. Chief executive Gordon Taylor initially defended his act, but he must have a say in the decision to try to reclaim his fee. They said in an official statement:
“In a conference call with Reginald and three members of the London Speaker Bureau through which he was recruited, it was outlined the make-up of our audience which would be widely diverse, including around 25% of women and ages ranging from 18 to 80.”
Oh those poor women! Their dainty ears must have been stung by the nasty comedian and his bad words that describe real things that happen in the actual world they live in, a world in which women of course never go to comedy clubs to hear such things because they're busy thinking about kittens and painting their nails. What patronising rubbish. This is more offensive than anything Hunter could have said because it's completely without irony.
Football has had its high profile cases involving racism of late, what with the Luis Suarez and John Terry sagas, and for these reasons they understandably wanted to avoid this subject matter. However, pretending that racism doesn't exist is not the way to deal with it. Talking about racism isn't the same as being racist. We're all different, it's a good thing, the way forward is to be comfortable in acknowledging that. The reaction makes them seem like a group of stuffy dullards with antiquated views on what is and isn't proper subject matter for discussion. If you go for dinner with someone and the conversation turns to racism it doesn't mean that the whole evening is ruined. Why is all of this so hard to grasp?
What I expect the PFA to do now is to say they want to donate his fee to Kick it Out or some other such organisation, to put pressure on him to give it back. This should make them feel satisfied that they've taken a stand against prejudice, utterly missing an opportunity to be the clear thinking organisation they're clearly desperate to portray themselves as.
Follow Jim on Twitter: @JimCampbellTFR
And listen to Jim each week on The Football Ramble