Arts

Andrew Maxwell: I want audiences to leave my shows armed and ready for life

Dublin comic Andrew Maxwell might not have quite realised what he was letting himself in for when he took part in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! last year but at least he can look back and laugh about it now. He tells Scene about life, love and his new show, Reality

Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell, whose new tour starts in Waterford on February 13
Brian Donaldson

IN A career that has achieved high praise from audiences and critics alike, Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell has never been short of subjects to regale us with. As he gears up for his new tour – with three Northern Ireland dates slated for the coming months – he’s set to give us a dose of Reality.

Or reality TV, to be more precise, given that his experience of being in the back of beyond in Australia for I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! will form a significant part of the show.

“It’s such a massive programme and it has a very special place in people’s hearts. When I started talking to my nearest and dearest about doing it, I didn’t realise how many people are so crazy about it," the 45-year-old Dubliner, who was the second celeb voted off the show in December, admits.

"You get whole families wanting photos. People’s kids want a photo of me."

Maxwell, who attended U2's alma mater, Mount Temple Comprehensive, in Dublin's Clontarf area, recalls of his I'm A Celebrity experience: "I was living on 600 calories a day, literally sleeping with snakes, and spiders are falling on to your head as you try to wee into a bucket at night. Everything else in life is then much easier.”

Making stand-up look easy has been Maxwell’s forte during a career spanning more than 25 years. A favourite at the Edinburgh Fringe with shows such as Grand Royale, Waxin’ (which earned him an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination in 2007), Supernatural, and his most recent, All Talk, he has also appeared on TV shows such as Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week and Drunk History, and narrated MTV’s Ex On The Beach.

In 2004 he was crowned King Of Comedy in a Channel 4 reality show, while he also claimed victory in a 2018 episode of Celebrity Mastermind with his specialist subject of Lebanon.

He may not be a comic you would describe as overtly political, but this mercurial Irishman does tackle the broader issues by discussing normal people, often finding joy in the idiosyncrasies of humans.

“I would say that I’m optimistic about people. I didn’t go to university, let alone a good university, but I’ve got this far. You can make it. Ultimately my guiding light is love. You go around every possible chamber of human experience and the only one that works is love.”

His reluctance to talk about Donald Trump, Brexit, Boris Johnson or other current political topics doesn’t mean that he’s afraid of confronting 'issues'. It’s just that he senses people might have had their fill of it all for the time being.

“My feeling is that at the moment, there’s going to be a period of ‘please stop talking about it’. I’ve talked extensively about the situations with Brexit and the IndyRef in Scotland and the constant rolling us-versus-them stuff in Northern Ireland. These things will always pop up. But I just get the sense that people don’t want it.

"A period of reflection, I believe it’s called. Luckily I’ve got a constant raging mid-life crisis on the go, so there’s always something to talk about.”

A veteran of the comedy circuit in Britain and Ireland and arts festivals all over the world, Maxwell has spent enough time on the road to know all about the pros and cons of touring.

“The con is loneliness, and there’s not a lot you can do about that. I drive around myself and listen to Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time [on BBC Radio Four]. It’s 45 minutes long and they get right to the point, with three experts in anything from the East India Company to quantum mechanics,” he says.

For a man who is constantly inquisitive about the world around him, there’s always something to learn about the places he’s appearing in.

“The pros of touring are the whole days set aside to just learn something new. There was a day on the tour last spring when I looked at the maps and it struck me that I had never realised that the Peak District is just above Sheffield. So suddenly I’m just pottering around the countryside like I’m in a Sunday evening murder-mystery.”

Maxwell's newfound fame from I’m A Celebrity might attract a different kind of audience to his shows, but whoever is in the crowd, his goal will always remain the same: “You want people to laugh their b****cks off and leave the tent or the room with their chin up.

"It’s important to send them off armed and ready for life. I want them to feel a million dollars.”

:: Andrew Maxwell takes his Reality tour to Omagh on February 21 and to Coleraine, Armagh and Belfast on May 29, 30 and 31 respectively. More Irish date details and tickets at andrewmaxwellontour.com

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