Rich Hall Interview: Hell No I Ain’t Happy! DVD
And audiences love him.
Better known as Otis Lee Crenshaw, Hall’s white trash alter ego continues to appeal to sold-out audiences each year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, throughout the UK (on tour) and at comedy festivals worldwide. With a Perrier, a Time Out Comedy, and two Emmy Awards to his name, the tenth season (1984-85) Saturday Night Live cast member is still on top.
Given his latest work, the DVD release of Rich Hall with Special Guests Otis Lee Crenshaw and the Honky Tonk A**holes – “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” out to own on 23rd November, what better time to speak to the king of spitfire wit himself? In an interview by phone, Hall yanks our chain and speaks freely to OTB about his comic career.
What can you tell us about your upcoming DVD, “Hell No I Ain’t Happy”?
I am going to do one-liners with no physical movement whatsoever, and surround myself with an electric shield. Nah. It is just sketches of me doing jokes. The first half is stand-up and the second half is me being Otis.
What inspired you to “give birth” to Otis Lee Crenshaw in 1998? Was it a natural progression to incorporate music into your act?
Most musical comedians are pretty bad, so I thought, why don’t I try to write some serious funny songs instead of parodies or knock-offs. The only setback in that was I had no musical talent whatsoever, so I had to learn to play the piano. I hoped in 10 years time that I would be a much better musician. It turns out, I was wrong.
How have you sustained such a long career as a comedian?
It is important every 10 years to shift and try something new when you are a comedian, and I have been doing this for 59 years, which is pretty astounded considering I am only 55.
What do you think of comedy today?
A robot can do comedy now. If you cut into Michael McIntyre, you’d probably find a lot of wires and processors and stuff.
How is it working in the UK versus the US? Do you tailor your jokes to different audiences? And how does each respond?
Somehow they buy this shit in Britain. Brits are just glad you showed up. In America, I bomb. I just get open-mouthed fish faces. Americans kind of see stand-up comedy as a sort of illegitimate form of entertainment. Why would I go back to America?
When did you discover your knack for comedy?
I got started after I was a journalist for a while. I ran a newspaper in Bellingham, Washington. I literally put the paper together and wrote a column three times a week. I was 22 and I found that I enjoyed writing columns and somehow that translated into comedy.
Spending 9 months out of the year here, how do you feel about UK television and shows like X Factor?
If it is on, I leave the room. The whole reality thing, I hope it is not here to stay. All these people are going to find that just because you can put dancers behind you and sing doesn’t mean that you can actually go out and have a good show. But I am anti-popular as well and I sure as well have no interest in watching network weatherman dance.
Is there anyone you really look up to for inspiration?
Bill Bailey, Jack Dean. Jonathan Ross, well he is not really a comedian. Alan Carr could develop a good game-show around him.
You have performed worldwide, published books, and garnered accolades. What is next?
Once you’ve played at the Apollo, there is nothing to do but fake your own death.
Hell No I Ain’t Happy! is out on DVD 23rd November 2009 at all good stockists.