Rich Hall has come a very long way since he gave up his job as a hurricane namer for the United States Meteorological Service.
Now, more than two decades later, he is hailed as one of our finest comedians. Well-known for his gruff, deadpan style, the man from Montana is a master of absurdist irony and rapid-fire wit.
Which means it is especially good news that Hall is on tour once again this spring – and heading to Cardiff.
One of the elements that distinguishes Hall’s live act is that he tailors each show to that particular location.
“I really look forward to the fact that every night is different – that’s the only way to keep it fresh,” says the Perrier Award winner.
“A lot of comedians lock onto a show and never change it. But for me, that is not taking advantage of where you are. The more you try to acknowledge where you are and take in local colour, the more you involve yourself with an audience and the more comic sparks fly.
“Nowadays I don’t need to look in the local papers to find out information about a particular town. I can go on Wikipedia and find out everything I need to know about a place in an hour.”
One of the highlights of the show will be the song that Hall sings about every single town where he is performing.
“I will build a structured song around the information I gather about each place I’m in. I will take into account the history of that town and what it is known for. I will also bring in things that have happened during the first half the show.
“Whenever I ask, ‘what’s this place famous for?’, I always get an amazing response. Recently they have mainly been downbeat stories about closed factories. Someone is always hacked off that they don’t make trouser presses there any more. So I take the Woody Guthrie approach and turn it into a song!”
Hall continues to get a real thrill out of live comedy.
“I have always loved doing live comedy more than anything else. I adore the electricity of it. I like being in that moment. There is nothing sanitised about that, it’s very real.
“You have to really think on your feet, and that always keeps it interesting. I really enjoy making documentaries and writing books – I get a lot of pleasure out of that finished product. But above all I love the fleeting nature of stand-up. When it’s over, it’s not coming back, and I love that ephemeral quality.”
The comedian, who has also enjoyed a hugely successful career on the other side of the Atlantic where he has written for and appeared on Saturday Night Live and The David Letterman Show, for which he won two Emmy Awards, is brilliant at bantering with his audience.
“I get a real buzz from that interaction. Anything that anyone says on the night becomes a key word that you can play off. A lot of people make fun of comedians for asking someone where they’re from, but often that is all you need to raise the level of a show and go somewhere with it. Frequently what people do for a living becomes a real feature of the show. It’s unique for that audience and for the comedian.
“The crucial thing is that you never belittle people in the audience. You always try to elevate what they say.”
Rich Hall is at The Glee club,
Cardiff on May 23. For details, call 0871 472 0400