By James Rampton...

American comedian Rich Hall is based here most of the time, so over the past three decades the UK has been lucky enough to watch his grouchy sense of humour.

He will now be offering more of his crotchety comedy, as he is sets off on a nationwide tour with his Hoedown.

The comedian, who has won both a Perrier (Edinburgh Comedy Festival) and a Barry (Melbourne International Comedy Festival).

Rich’s straight-talking and acerbic comedy leaves his targets reeling. He sends up whichever country he is in, but perhaps reserves his most trenchant scorn for his native USA.

In the run-up to the tour, Rich takes some time out to chat with me. You will no doubt be very pleased to learn that this particular comedian is just as funny in an interview as he is on stage.

Rich, who has presented such critically acclaimed BBC 4 documentaries as Rich Hall’s Californian Stars, Rich Hall’s You Can Go To Hell, I’m Going To Texas, Rich Hall’s Inventing the Indian and his most recent, Rich Hall’s Presidential Grudge Match, begins by underlining how excited he is to be performing live once again.

“I love being on stage. I love the fact that when a live show is over, it’s gone. It’s happened, and it will never happen like that again. It can’t be replicated. That’s a great magical moment.”

Rich, who is also an accomplished author and has released three books, Magnificent Bastards, I Blame Society and Things Snowball, all published by Abacus Books, thrives on the spontaneity of live comedy.

He observes: “In every single show, there are always two or three moments where I’m thinking, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ You’re constantly thinking on your feet.”

One of the many unique features of Rich’s act is that he goes out of his way to find out about the town he is playing in and then improvises a song on stage about it. He goes the extra mile to tailor-make his material for that particular venue. “I try to tap into what is happening locally and address that musically by writing an improvised song based on the town I’m in.”

Audiences really appreciate this bespoke comedy. “Once they realise you’re not just trotting out your regular act, people think, ‘He’s made a real effort. He’s on our side, so we’re on his side.” Then you can take them anywhere.

“I like to do something custom-made every night, otherwise you would just be like a robot. That can really wear you down. Nobody gets more sick of hearing their own voice than a comedian.”

Rich, who was also enjoyed huge success as his country and western musician alter ego, Otis Lee Crenshaw, continues: “When you’re improvising a song, you think, ‘I may never do this on again, but it’s a special moment for everyone here’.

“You want to reach the point where audiences say, ‘I’d like to see that guy again’. You want to deliver the goods and be Old Reliable.”

The stand-up is one of only a handful of performers who can genuinely combine comedy and music in one act.

He says: “I will have such a great collection of musicians on stage for the Hoedown. Having a band there makes it a much richer experience – if you’ll pardon the phrase!”

The comedian, who released his third stand-up DVD Rich Hall: 3:10 To Humour in November last year explains: “Music works in my show because it connects with people on a very personal level. A lot of comedians just come on stage and say, ‘I was on a bus and I passed so and so’.

“But that’s just a reaction to something rather than a specific, custom-made song that engages people. The magic is more important than the material. People really respond to that.”

The stand-up’s other trademark is anger, and he is capable of using that to very effective comic ends. Rich comments: “It is always good to articulate anger.

“If you don’t, you’re merely preaching to the converted and asking, ‘Have you ever noticed?’ Yes, we are paying you to notice things we haven’t already noticed!”

Before he has to go, Rich reflects once more on what he loves so much about touring. “I’m not a big showbiz hound,” he muses, “but for me being on stage is the most satisfying thing imaginable.”

A sentiment with which Rich’s legions of fans would no doubt wholeheartedly agree.

The Alban Arena, Civic Centre, St Albans, AL1 3LD, Thursday, May 11, 7.30pm. Details: 01727 844488