Andrew Maxwell: That's The Spirit at Montreal Just For Laughs

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

This is not the sort of gig you fly 3,000 miles for. The first engagement in Andrew Maxwell’s five-night solo run at Just For Laughs is attended by barely a dozen people, an audience so small he can address us all by name throughout the show. He already personally knew two of us, which in these circumstances is quite a slice of the pie chart.

If he was disheartened, he didn’t show it. Although he didn’t – couldn’t – ignore the low attendance either. Some comics might have pulled the performance; more yet would probably have erected that imaginary fourth wall and delivered the show as rehearsed, not drawing attention to the elephant that could so easily have fitted into the room, given all the empty seats.

But Maxwell’s forte, even with actual-sized audiences, is fostering a ‘we’re-all-in-this-together’ gang mentality, and so here he cajoled and chatted to us all, making light of the potentially bleak situation. Call it Blitz spirit (if you can, for what turned out to be a very mixed-nationality group, led by an Irishman), call it Stockholm Syndrome – but by God he made us into something approaching an audience, eventually.

He adjusted the pitch of the show accordingly, too, reigning back on the declamatory and introducing more conversational elements. This is surely not the same show as he’ll be opening in Edinburgh next week – despite the same title – although it comprised many elements of newer material likely to make their way into the Fringe show, as well as a couple of older favourites getting their Canadian debut.

Conspiracy theorists is one new strand, not surprising given he’s making a BBC Three series on the subject, and Maxwell was enlightening on some of the more wacky beliefs, such as Jews being space aliens – or at least some of them. Encounters with Mormons and homophobic rednecks add to the range of, let’s say ‘unusual’ ideas he shares with us, ensuring that the hour or so was frequently fascinating.

It wouldn’t be fair to critique too much of the material in such straitened circumstances, but the playful Maxwell’s clearly interested in the world and all the diverse opinions within it, even if it’s to affectionately mock them.

That passion infiltrates much of his routines, as well as ensuring he engages with even this modest audience with genuine inquisitiveness. If only Montreal’s comedy-goers were equally as interested in him, for he deserves a bigger crowd.

Review date: 25 Jul 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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