Rich Hall first appeared at the comedy festival as Otis Lee Crenshaw, a foul-mouthed redneck ex-con with a keyboard and a penchant for off-hand but cutting political commentary. He was, in a crabby and muttering way, a fucking delightful comedian. Some ten or fifteen years later, that beacon of talent stills shines. He is still crabby, still muttering, still one of the best.
His new show opens with a bit of local colour. A lot of local colour, in fact, as Hall muses on the success of Australian ambassadors from Paul Hogan to Steve Irwin to Keith Urban, wishing at least one of them dead. He follows with a bit about Vegemite, which by some miracle does not sound tired, before launching into a tirade on the evils of Kraft - a genius tirade that is crotchety but cute.
Much of the show is devoted to "off the cuff" songs inspired by members of the audience, such as clueless Dan the Unemployed Dude or Paul, who works in sustainability but is unable to explain what sustainability is. These guys make easy targets, but Hall's gentle ninja approach means that while they are roasted, the boys are still laughing. Same too for Cara and her fiancé, who are forced to recreate their proposal for our viewing pleasure.
Hall is just incredibly clever. Generally speaking, you know where the joke is coming from, but you're never prepared for how funny it turns out to be. And every now and then he has a flash of left field inspiration that has the audience doubled over. He spits out a curt, bitter commentary with an unearthly flair, swearing religiously, dropping truth bombs with pin head precision, dazzling the audience with very little effort. Whether he's talking about love, the economy or hunters with AIDS, you will laugh hard and laugh often, as always.
BY SIMONE UBALDI
Rich Hall performs at the RMIT Capitol Theatre until Sunday April 7.