“I don't want to talk about Donald Trump,” Andrew Maxwell tells us as he comes on stage at the beginning of Showtime, because no matter what comics make up about the US President, he then goes and does something more weirdly comic, more comically weird, than they could ever invent.
Instead the Irish standup, who has lived in the UK for the greater half of his life, muses on Brexit and beyond, seeing the world through a resident's eyes – but with the sharp observation of someone who will always remain an outsider.
Daftness always quickly follows the serious
Talking of which, this keen European has recently moved from London to a part of Kent that voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, some of them Ukippers whose politics could not be more different from his own. He mines some great comedy here, much of it physical, as he assumes the demeanour of various characters who live in his street, salt of the earth, gorblimey south Londoners who have moved up the financial ladder and down to Kent. But they are not lazy targets; Maxwell doesn't do sneery. No, he's always more interested in digging down into a subject to better understand it.
So he attests how decent his neighbours are, and how they have kitted out their well-kept front lawns with flagpoles flying, what else, Union flags. While he mentions the xenophobia that informed some Brexit voters, Maxwell doesn't portray these people as racists (although some may be); he tries to impart what matters to them, and his story about the blind rage one neighbour has about being able to see his hated France from his house on a fine day tells it perfectly.
The threat of terrorism, now a routine part of our lives, is another big strand of the show, and the Irishman talks of how he, as a young immigrant, was expected to speak on behalf of all Irish people whenever the Provisional IRA struck on the mainland, and then neatly parallels that with how all British Muslims are now expected to denounce jihadist violence as if were something to do with them. But daftness always quickly follows the serious; musing on why on earth young Muslim men would want to spend their Friday nights at the mosque, he says: “You should be in the park fingering.”
Islam is something he knows about; Maxwell's wife is a Muslim and he describes travelling with her through airports – “my little random bag check” – and then, showing a nicely broad world view, he segues into talking about his local vicar, a former police officer who can shoehorn Jesus into any subject.
Showtime started life at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and has been touring since, and occasional underpowered sections suggested fatigue had set in. But his onstage notes attested to how he has updated sections of it as events have unfolded since, and Maxwell is one of just a few comics on the circuit doing political comedy, which is thoughtful and insightful. More power to his elbow.