Jamali Maddix

Jamali Maddix

Winner of the 2014 Chortle Student Comedy Award
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Hate Thy Neighbour: Love and Hate in the Deep South

TV review by Steve Bennett

The second series of Hate Thy Neighbour is on familiar ground. In the first episode comedian Jamali Maddix meets a posse of street preachers who go to Southern Decadence, a gay pride event in New Orleans, to holler ‘fags’ at the party people.

Although viewers are invited to be outraged at the vile views so aggressively expressed in the name of the Bible, quite another airing of this familiar encounter is hardly revelatory. It may be wrapped in the higher ideals of a documentary, but the ignorant yelling and counter-yelling is all a bit Jerry Springer.

Maddix pretty much acknowledges as much, concluding that Reuben Israel and his entourage revel in the aggro, since provoking a response gives them the attention they crave. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of reading a Katie Hopkins tweet will have already figured out that’s how most hate-mongers operate. Pointing a camera in their angry red faces only fuels them, especially if you argue back.

The comic counters this to some extent by being calm in his rejection of their divisive message. Like Louis Theroux, who took on the Westboro Baptist Church more than a decade ago, Maddix wins the trust of the extremists by being reasonable in the face of their fury. He’s a cheerful, easy-going chap with an ethnically ambiguous appearance that makes it hard for the bigots to know exactly where to direct their unease. And it must take some cajones to hang out with the people he does.

Israel and his acolytes live up to expectation, hollering anal-obsessed insults through their bullhorns, claiming gay marriage is even worse than the Holocaust and evoking their right to free expression to justify it. Also as expected, the so-called ‘sinners’ of Bourbon Street are generally filled with a lot more love, and seem a lot more happy, than the homophobes who hide fear behind their aggression.

However, there is some unexpected, accidental humour from the Indian street preacher hoping that his joining the homophobes will atone for his sinful past life. When he stole some mangos.

As in the first series, location footage from the States is intercut with Maddix performing stand-up about his experiences, confessing: ‘I don’t like talking to Nazis but I need the money.’ Again, mocking the intolerant has long proved relatively easy picking for comedy, and he hits the marks soundly, even if there’s little new to be said, while admitting he brings no journalistic rigour to his encounters.

The best part of this opener is, however, not the dramatic Southern Decadence encounters that you might expect to be the most telegenic, but the scenes in which Maddix travels to a small LGBT-friendly church in Mississippi.

There it is not some fringe nutters but the American establishment that is showing its dark, bigoted side, allowing any person – including state employees – to refuse to serve someone purely because of their sexuality.

Scenes of the congregation telling of how they have been dehumanised as ‘abominations’ by family, strangers, and now – essentially – by the law is so desperately sad. Yet they still cling to a religion that has been used so harshly against them.

Here Maddix is attempting to tell a more human, more complicated story than the easy TV of showing very unpleasant people doing very unpleasant things.

• Hate Thy Neighbour: Love and Hate in the Deep South premieres on Viceland at 9pm tonight, or it can be viewed in full here:

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Published: 24 Jan 2018


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Chortle Student Comedy Award Final

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Pleasance Comedy Reserve

Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Jamali Maddix: Vape Lord


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