Step away from the mobile phone. Put away the tablet. The acerbic comedian Rich Hall is about to come on stage, and he would like your undivided attention.

The American-born comedian, who was raised in North Carolina, emphasises that what he is looking forward to more than anything else on this tour is the experience of performing for you. When he is on stage, there is no barrier between you and him, and both you and he derive tremendous pleasure from that.

“What I love about stand-up is the immediacy of it,“ says Rich, 59. “Having run the gamut of TV panel shows, after a while you know how to do them and they are not so much fun anymore.

“But now I know I’m going to be on stage somewhere like Finchley, and that prospect is really exciting. For those two hours, no one is looking at their phones. It’s a true non-media event. Those sorts of occasions are rapidly disappearing, and that’s why I value them so much.“

His critically acclaimed grouchy deadpan style has established him as a master of absurdist irony and the king of rapid-fire wit. The Montana resident is renowned for his expertly crafted tirades. His biting, yet compelling comedy has helped earn him a Perrier Award in Edinburgh and a Barry in Melbourne. He is a coruscating presence – both on and off stage.

Rich, who was the inspiration for the curmudgeonly barman Moe Szyslak in The Simpsons, says he gets a kick out of touring this country. “I may have become overly familiar with the motorway service stations of the UK, but I like discovering new places. It’s important to visit out of the way towns because it gives you a new perspective.“

The fuel that powers Rich’s act is a marvellous sense of simmering fury. The stand-up, who has also starred regularly on Stand Up for the Week, QI, Live in the Apollo, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, gets riled by, “The level of incompetence and amount of crap in the world. I’m also incensed by the fact that we are all turning into button-pushing squirrels. That has brought about a serious loss of personality in this impersonal, digitised world.“

Of course, Rich is not that irate in reality – it is simply a persona he adopts for comic effect on stage.

“It works because people know that I’m not really that angry. Anyone that angry should not be doing comedy. With my style of slow-burn comedy, the crowd know that you can’t be that worked up. The worst thing you can do is get really angry on stage – then you’ve lost it.

“I’m not really angry at all. There are very small outward changes in my emotions. I have a sort of deadpan Walter Matthau visage. People think, ‘This guy looks grumpy’, but that’s just how my face is put together. Your comic demeanour has to match your face. Most comedians fit their face.“

Rich, who in the past was a regular on Saturday Night Live, has enjoyed particular success in this country, where his trademark downbeat style really strikes a chord. The comedian reflects that: “British audiences are always very appreciative of the spoken word.

“Brits also like to insult you. Sometimes they come to the stage door after the show and say, ‘We really prefer Lee Mack.’ They don’t even say, ‘We really enjoyed your show – you’re our second favourite behind Lee Mack’. But I know the subtext – they must quite like me if they have waited in line to insult me!“

Finally, Rich reiterates how much he is relishing the idea of playing to British audiences.

“You have someone’s complete attention, which is almost impossible nowadays. You can’t go to a sports event without someone tweeting about it every five seconds.

“People don’t even listen to President Obama speaking without looking at their phones all the time. So maybe those two hours when I’m up there on stage provide a respite from all of us slowly turning into gadget-pedalling robots.

“If that’s the case, then it’s pretty cool!“

  • Rich Hall is at artsdepot, Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, on Saturday, November 29 at 8pm. Details: 020 8369 5454,