If you’ve heard of comedy, you’ve almost definitely heard of Rich Hall. He’s like the well-read uncle you never hung out with enough.
That is, until you step into the Adelaide Fringe’s Studio 7 and snuggle up next to complete strangers because his shows sell out like, well, like an internationally famous comedian you can see for less than the price of a round of drinks.
The eager crowd was packed in so tightly (8 March) that if everyone had laid back into the lap of the person behind them: they could have slid the benches out from underneath, leaving a suspended human counter balance, ready for laughter and unwilling to budge. Rich Hall is that good.
The moment he saunters onstage, you’re in the hands of a master. His persona is erudite mountain man, a sort of hillbilly genius. He is that uncle you finally travelled to Montana to visit and, sweet heavenly Bill Hicks, are you glad you did.
Rich doesn’t castigate his audience, or sneer too heavily at ‘modern life’ as comedians of a certain age can tend to do. His take is that of a bemused everyman and this is how he wins over almost every member of the audience.
Politics are fertile ground, in particular Australia’s recent Wheel of Leadership, and the looming Trump tide in the US. But it’s material that already been well-chewed and while it secured Rich some early laughs, he didn’t dwell. The show was free-wheeling in that way, and worked well because of it.
Rich has freed himself of the need to craft a whole set from one theme, arriving at a tacked-on take-home as way of rounding off an hour-long string of jokes. Thus were the audience treated to some extremely clever comedy.
Despite the slouch hat and the flannie, Rich Hall’s intelligence and consummate skill as a performer can’t hide, particularly when he picks up his guitar. The songs, a mixture of pre-written tunes and savant-like improvisation based on short interactions with the crowd, were astounding.
Abandoman is brilliant at improv-songs, but this was just part of Hall’s act. Another string to his guitar, as it were.
Even the seemingly endless parade of audience members with meaningless job titles didn’t phase him. If you only see one comedian this Fringe… well, you should see more. But try to book a Rich Hall ticket. His Fringe season concludes 13 March.