Culture

Reginald D Hunter: “The world needs my DNA”

American comedy star Reginald D Hunter talks presidential dreams, his duty to breed, and why coming to England was a defiant act of triumph

I was an awkward teenager. I wasn’t a bad child but I was mouthy and I was silly. And I wanted a lot of approval, so I was a wise-ass in class. I didn’t know how to mind my mouth. If I could talk to that boy now I’d say: slow down, it’s coming. Yeah, you lost today but, you know what, you’re going to have plenty of days to win.

There were nine of us siblings living together in Albany, Georgia. My parents were uneducated but my mother worked for years as a domestic in privileged white and Jewish people’s homes, and she saw how those women ran those homes. When she went home to her working-class ghetto she began to implement those systems. She insisted on bedtimes and education and aspiring to something other than what you were born into. I didn’t get it at the time. She just looked mean. If I could go back I’d tell her I see the method in her madness now, and I’d tell my younger self to shut his damn mouth and get on with it.

When I was a kid I wanted to be a politician. Or maybe even president. It seemed the world needed changing and having that position would be the most easy way to do it. I didn’t understand how politics really worked. Since I was a teenager, when I’ve tried to figure out what to do in my life, I’ve just tried to work out what people I don’t respect would do, then do the opposite. And the people I didn’t respect would never fucking go to England. So I did that.

The people who are having the most children – my goodness, it scares me for the future of the world

I didn’t know it was possible that people might find me funny until I got to this country. I hate to admit it but I’m a type. Two of my sisters are way funnier. I have a sister who’s a minister and I went to see her preach last time I was home, and my mouth was open. I have mimicked her style so much without knowing it. Jesus.

I’ve been working hard these last few years to route out old views that are not based in reality. I come from a place and time when people said ma’am and sir regularly, and there was a sense of duty to people in distress. Now it seems people only have duty towards themselves. I think of all those cowboy films set at the turn of the century and there’s a moment when they can see just over at the horizon the end of their way of life. The world is changing. I’m out of step with the times.

My dad told me once that a man at 65 may be completely different to who he was at 25 but he still has to answer for that 25-year-old. I’ve said a good many stupid things. I spend a lot of time in my life going back to people and trying to put things right. I think I’m about 70 per cent of the way there. I remember when I was back home once and on the phone a lot, and my dad asked what I was doing and I said: “Just mending fences.” And he said: “Okay but remember that’s what Kennedy was doing in Texas.”

I would not particularly like to be a dad. I don’t have a mortgage or a kid or a woman right now, and I worry if I did I would do shittier TV to keep them. I think of Eddie Murphy’s career since he had kids. But I think it is my duty to have about five kids. The world needs my DNA because the psychotics are doing a lot of fucking out there. The educated and intellectual, they’re having fewer and fewer children. The people who are having the most children – my goodness, it scares me for the future of the world.

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