From the similarities between US gun laws and British drinking hours, to what cryptic crosswords really tell us about the British psyche, American in London Rich Hall casts a keen eye on the lunatic contradictions and weird marvels of his native and adoptive homelands in this hilarious book.
I say: I have been in love with Rich Hall since I first saw him on QI and decided therefore to buy his books (and see him live in February – weee) and I am so glad I did. Some comedians are funny on stage but not as funny on paper, but because Hall has such a dark and terse wit it translates well in both mediums.
Well, I love it in both mediums (I know some people just don’t get him).
Anyway, this book is full of anecdotes and observations about the US and Britain and I laughed out loud almost the entire time. When you see Hall on QI or when he’s doing his stand-up routine he seems like a grumpy old man (Moe in The Simpsons was based on him) but when I read this he comes across as very intelligent and eloquent. I realise that this says more about my prejudices than it does Hall, but I was expecting some random cultural jokes mixed with a little nonsense, but he talks about his grandparents, amongst other things, with such warmth and humility it was a welcome surprise to me.
I have highlighted a lot of funny quotes and I know that this will be the type of book that I’ll turn to when I need a laugh.
“They say you have to sell your soul to the Devil to really play the Blues. This I did, though several days later the Devil returned and tried to give it back.
‘I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time,’ he announced. ‘Your soul is worthless.’ I pointed out that the transaction, which took place at a crossroads somewhere in Mississippi (now the site of a brand new Walmart), was binding. He claimed he was entitled to a five-day ‘cooling off period’. Fine. If fame has eluded me, there’s your reason. My advice to any would-be Bluesman is try to get something in writing from the Devil.” – p 37-38
That’s from a short story about a Bluesman that takes the most absurd turns.
Needless to say, this book has made me fall deeper in love with Hall. I think one of my favourite stories is about what happened to him on 9-11-11. It’s a very serious subject, and a part of me felt bad for laughing at his antics, but another understood that it is through humour we can deal with things.
So yeah, Rich Hall for