It's all about bouncing back

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Andrew Maxwell and the Irish Hipster Oxymoron

So we've already established that Irish funny men leave me weak in the knees. I've never been sure of the real reason; but a certain portion of the charm lies in a relaxed approach that abandons the drive to appear "hip" on stage.

One possible exception, however, is young Irish stand-up Andrew Maxwell. Maxwell comes as close as anyone I've seen to defeating the commonly-held assumption that the phrase "Irish hipster" is an oxymoron. At a still-young 34, Maxwell's on-stage persona is current and fierce (though blissfully not ironic). Proudly Irish, but also a serious hip-hop fan who likes to play African American clubs in the States: put that all in a blender and hit puree -- that's Andrew Maxwell.

It has been a successful mix for him so far. Maxwell was nominated in 2007 for the if.comedy award for the best show at the Edinburgh Fringe (still not quite sure why he didn't win, either, as he seemed to have a loyal following.) He also used to host his own weekly late-night comedy gig Fullmooners (though tickets don't seem to be currently available -- so it may be done now). The show had a cult following and had featured appearances by a number of name comics including Russell Brand and Simon Pegg.

Despite all of this success, however, I frequently had trouble finding much of his stand-up material on the web. The first bit I ever stumbled onto of his was the clever "Who Here's Ever Had Fun with Muslims?" -- included here at 4:33 of his stand up pilot Chief Fullmooner: .

If you watch the rest of the bit you'll see that Maxwell also enjoys poking fun at Americans and American stereotypes. At first I thought that seemed too easy, but now it's growing on me because his approach is playful and focuses more on accent oddities and contrasting the everyday colloquy of American youth with the approach of their Irish counterparts. So he avoids the more common jokes currently in vogue about how American politics are ruining the planet (those are the truly easy applause lines in Europe these days).

Until quite recently, the only other full routine that I'd found of his online is this appearance at the Secret Policeman's Ball in 2006 wherein he starts with a cute jab at his own relative anonymity and then moves into a somewhat timely bit about fear:

Thankfully, over time, I've been able to find more material. I went back yesterday to see what new gems might be available and found this quick piece "Lucky Charms", which I thought you might enjoy. Yes, as the name suggests, it deals with having to face stereotypes of his own people as he travels through America, but as with the "Muslims" piece it brings him back into the long-form story style that suits him so well. He's an engaging storyteller.

This bit is actually even more humorous in the context of Maxwell's most recent work: he has been making a series of travel films for the Guardian and Tourism Ireland. They are actually quite charming -- it's a series of six touring shows covering the best of Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry, Kerry and Shannon. So he's obviously proud of his heritage.

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