Andrew Maxwell: Showtime | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett © Steve Ullathorne
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Andrew Maxwell: Showtime

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

The Fringe is full of comedians experimenting with the form, pushing at boundaries, finding their voice. But sometimes you just want a brilliantly accomplished stand-up with a powerhouse, gimmick-free set that’s hard-hitting and hilarious, politically engaged but not soapboxing, personal but not navel-gazing. Step forward Andrew Maxwell.

This is his 22nd Edinburgh, but he remains at the top of his game – I don’t think he knows how to be anywhere else — with a wide-ranging, clued-up show full of passionate politics and great jokes, swooping between the silly and the serious.

There are a few moments of poignancy for dramatic impact, but unlike some his colleagues there is no mistaking this for anything other than a comedy show.

Brexit looms large, and he’s got a different perspective from most comedians, having moved out of his North London bubble and into Kent. He now lives among the Ukippers who he’s diametrically opposed to, politically, but acknowledges as decent folk. He doesn’t ignore the xenophobia driving some of the Leave vote, but it’s far from an eviscerating portrayal of them all as knuckle-dragging racists. Though it’s tragically true that we may be plunged into an economic abyss just because some people want blue passports back. 

As with programmes like The Daily Show, sometimes it takes a comedian to inform as well as educate. Did you know the UK does more trade with Ireland than it does with the much-vaunted economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined? You do now. There are some delightful touches in the way Maxwell covers such big issues, not least in calling Ireland ‘the little island’ and mainland UK ‘the big island’, turning national crises into parochial disturbances.

The threat of terrorism is another key strand, this even before the attack in Barcelona, but it will surely make it into the show, as Charlottesville already has. Combining the global with the personal, he likens how he felt as a new Irish immigrant to London at the time of the IRA mainland bombing campaign, to Muslims today. #notinmyname

Oh, and he has a Muslim wife, even if she is the sort of Muslim happy to consume prosecco, if not bacon. They have just welcomed Maxwell’s third child, a daughter, born right at the start of the Fringe.

For Maxwell isn’t always quite what you expect – for example openly declaring himself a Christian, probably the last thing you’d expect from a contemporary lefty social commentator-type of comedian. And it leads to great take on the old trope of the vicar shoehorning Jesus into topical events, and a brilliant depiction of his local minister, a former Special Brand cop.

This is just a great bit of character work, just as jokes about, say, the Flat Earthers, are just that – not really part of a bigger narrative, but woven seamlessly into a pacy, passionate show that covers a lot of ground… and leaves a trail of hilarity in its wake.

Review date: 22 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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