Andrew Maxwell: This Is My Hour

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

This is the sort of Fringe show stand-ups should aspire to - thoughtful comedy with a considered point of view, relayed so compellingly that audience becomes thoroughly absorbed in the ride. It's an hour that, as we shall see, quite literally covers all the bases.

That a theme should emerge from Maxwell's breezy anecdotes might come as a surprise; for, as he admits, he's very easily distracted.

As a gimmick, and to keep his mind on track, his show is structured like a game of rounders; he must get between the bases that represent the central pillars of his show until he completes the circuit and ends the show. And, lest you think this is a little contrived, he travels between bases on a child's trike.

If a grown man posing on a red plastic tricycle isn't funny, I don't know what is. And if nothing else, this is a prop that instantly creates a sense of jollity ­ as proved by the cheers and applause it gets each time Maxwell rides it.

Indeed, the first of his bases is dedicated to the very topic of fun. Maxwell paints himself as a mischievous tyke getting up to all sorts of shenanigans graded under the Irish language system as craic, ri-ra or the more intense rooly-booly.

This is the excuse for some typical stand-up anecdotes about his exploits, including a physical fight with a 6ft 4in transvestite following a disagreement over Chewbacca from Star Wars He lost the fight and the argument.

Part two is about fear and conquering it; encapsulating tales of wrestling alligators as well as providing a platform to discuss the paranoia fuelled by an alarmist media. Whether it be the irrational, smothering terror about the paedophile threat, or America's paranoia over another Al Qaeda attack that is matched only by their worries about invasion by space aliens. It's a skilful mix of social commentary and personal anecdote, with much of it derived from a bigot-baiting trip he took to meet the super-rich right-wingers in the States.

This evolves naturally into the third theme, contrasting Americas' state of near-constant dread with the British and Irish working-class apathy to just about any situation. Needless to say, he comes down on the side of apathy being the best way to preserve yourself ­ and the planet.

Fourth, and final, base allows Maxwell to conclude with his own agenda; that we should all follow the middle path between caring about nothing and fretting about everything.

His is the happy-clappy idea of finding your own happiness, making no enemies and picking no sides. But just when you think he's filling up with drippy, hippy love and peace, he brings it all down with a laddish quip.

And that, essentially, is Maxwell's strength. Time and time again, he reels you in with an absorbing, well-told tale, painstakingly building up an expectant mood, before puncturing it with a gag; sometimes a throwaway line, sometimes a brilliant bit of commentary.

With such long build-ups, the laughs don't come particularly fast ­ but they are worth the wait. By the time he gets to each well-judged punchline, the atmosphere is right for the picking.

As such it may be more a show for critics and his comedian peers than laugh-hungry punters, but Maxwell excels in achieving what he set out to do. Expect him to attract reviewers' stars like a lightbulb attracts moths.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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