My son loves QI and amongst his favourite panellist (and mine too) is Rich Hall, with his dry and quirky, yet hilarious sense of humour. This show tied in perfectly with his sixteenth birthday and I was “lucky” enough to score two front row tickets to this sell out gig.
Before we made the very short trip to Monmouth we were watching “London not Tennessee”, a live DVD of Otis Lee Crenshaw, Rich Hall’s red-neck musician’s alter ego. We ended up cutting things a bit fine time-wise and then couldn’t get a parking space. We arrived at the venue, out of breath and about 30 seconds after Rich had come on stage. A guy checked our tickets and commented, “Front row tickets. He’s on. Good luck”. Having watched half of London not Tennessee we already had an idea that front row tickets may be a slight problem.
We slipped in and sat next to the lighting/sound man in the back row. It’s a small Victorian theatre that holds about 400 people (including the balcony and tiny boxes), so we could see well even from our aft position. A slightly oddball woman called Cath from Lydney was first to get the RH treatment. Rich made a comment how she and himself had been stood up, a reference to our two unoccupied seats to Cath’s left. We recognised a few lines and a couple of songs from the DVD and off QI. Rich told of the Irish newspaper headline “Cork man drowns” and how his jokes about “Bob” went down badly in southern Ireland. He then went on to talk to a farmer from Hereford who he tried to convince to marry his girlfriend of four years, then talked to a chap from Cinderford. Each got their own song. I was appalled and embarrassed at the audience’s xenophobic reaction when every time the audience member was asked where they came from the answer was an English town.
After an hour there was an intermission and we moved to our front row seats. Will stopped for a chat with one of his friends he bumped into on the way. The woman with Cath appeared and glared at us. When I asked her what the problem was it turned out she was so drunk she though we were in her seat despite her and Cath’s seat being next to the isle and their Tupperware boxes of half eaten lunch sitting on the floor next to them. As soon as Rich returned he noticed our presence and commented that he “loved to sing to two men”. In his defence it is often hard to see detail in the audience due to lighting and my son is a good 6’3″, but he has only just turned 16 years old and (being his father) I am a good few years older. Rich decided that I was lonely and single (I’m happily married for 20 years but my wife didn’t fancy the show), but it was in the name of comedy, so I sat back and laughed along. “Have you met Cath yet?”, he asked wistfully. I laughed. Next he asked me my job. “I’m in I.T.”, was my reply. The audience booed. Why the f**k would you boo this? The farmer didn’t get booed. I wasn’t born with the privileges that most farmers are born with. I had to work hard and go to University. I see plenty of farmers that do a shocking job (I know there are good ones too). Only two weeks ago we found a sheep that had died after it had wedged itself between a tree and a fence. How could a good farmer not have prevented this only 200yds from his home? I pay tax, I do a real job with professionalism and integrity, I’m educated and I don’t rip people off. How many industries can honestly say this? I think the problem is that so many people on the fringes of I.T. (help desk “analysts” for instance) give themselves such over-inflated job titles and are the only “I.T.” people the general public come in contact with. These people are not IT professionals. It would be like saying “I work in health”, and then boo a doctor because you don’t like the hospital food. Rich’s reaction was much funnier. He turned away with his head in his hands saying, “I.T. My god, couldn’t you just have made something up?” My response (unheard) was, “I did make that up. I’m really a traffic warden”.
Sorry about the rant, but I had to get that off my chest.
Anyway, Rich sang me a great song called “The broadband don’t come past Pete’s house no more” with lines about “putting down spreadsheets and getting under the bed sheets” and “the last word in ‘shit’ is ‘IT'”. Later he tried to get Ed (the farmer) to propose to his girlfriend Mel, but that didn’t go too well. “It’s going to be a very awkward drive home for you two tonight”. I couldn’t work out if this was pre-arranged with Rich, especially as Rich produced a ring in a box for them.
I had always wondered why this American spent so much time in the UK. It’s a pretty unusual combination. Rich revealed that he is married to a Liverpudlian and they live in Montana a long way from his south east roots. Wikipedia reveals that he has a ranch there and a flat in London too.
A gardener from Ross on Wye got the song about rock musicians that died in agricultural accidents (from “London not Tennessee”) and the set was finished with a song about Border Collies and how they take their jobs so seriously.
I’ve got to say that Rich was brilliant. You need to be quick witted to adapt to different responses so quickly. You also need to be able to recall of a lot of songs, as the set is clearly tailored to the front row of the audience. Some of the lines I recognised from other songs. My IT song used a few lines from Bank-boy’s song for instance and I was even called IT-boy once. While Rich had a laugh with us (and at our expense) it was never nasty in any way. He must be doing OK as he was staying in the Celtic Manor. “There’s a mini-bar in the room. It’s like a portal into the future. I can see what the price of a Coke will be in 2035″. I learned just before I went out (thanks to Wikipedia) that Matt Groening based Moe the bar keeper on Rich and I do wonder why I had never noticed before how alike they are. I have to say for a 59 year old he looks in great shape too. Thanks for a great show and we look forward to seeing you again one day.
After the show the audience all pulled out their phones and start twatting around with Twitter and Facebook. A bit surprising considering they all hate I.T.