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Edinburgh Festival review – Andrew Maxwell

Monday, August 08 2011

Mischievous, intelligent and brutal – Andrew Maxwell is back to his best


Andrew Maxwell

















Back in 2009 one of Edinburgh is Funny's reviewers found Andrew Maxwell's show that year to be lazy and not up to his usual standards. I also saw it at it and yeah, it wasn't all that.

But boy has he got his mojo back. This hour is a lesson in stand-up comedy, full of authority, hilarious and twisted punchlines and a rebellious streak. He also increasingly – and this has been observed week-to-week on the London circuit as well – has the most vicious way with unruly audience members. Tonight it's a pair of American girls in the front row who are far too chatty and you can see Maxwell straining at the leash not to follow up his warnings and nibbles with a mauling.

The way he announces himself onstage, with a roar, an insult to Scotland a rare moment of self-deprecation, gets him instant rapport. It's pretty amazing how quickly he achieves that tonight.

Most of the material is on current-ish affairs such as the Queen's visit to Ireland, the Arab Spring, Bin Laden's death and the phone-hacking scandal. He is broadly liberal but not a stereotypical one, given he's actually pretty scary and uses un-PC accents and language.

There are some well-trodden paths for comedy such as paedophilia in the Catholic church and more general religion bashing, but he has some golden lines that make you wonder why other comics bother. And in "sun-kissed hustler" he has the finest description of Tony Blair you'll see, topped off with some ideas for Blair merchandising.

Maxwell speaks on weighty subjects with intellect and always with a strong opinion, sometimes a perverse one. He's also a mischievous bugger who is able to make jokes on sectarianism and burkas without it seeming glib and without it getting tense. He winds up the English about being beaten by the Irish at cricket, and he winds up the Scots about the queen (their queen).

There are a few wonderful shifts in tone, such as his gleeful tales of how he loves being all folksy when he visits mid-America, and he edges towards showboating towards the end as he perches on a chair and holds court, slowing the gag rate a little. But he's earned it, and he's earned the drink he audaciously pours from his only piece of stage scenery.

"I still want to fuck shit up," he says at one point. It seems the fire is back in Maxwell's belly, and the resulting comedy is white hot.

5 stars

Andrew Maxwell: The Lights Are On is on at 9pm at the Assembly George Square.

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