Andrew Maxwell at Vodafone Comedy Festival

People are easily pleased: a bit of sunshine, a cold beer, and the prospect of a few laughs has everyone in a cheery mood as they settle into the Comedy Hub for Andrew Maxwell’s headline slot. Although the tent is just more than half-full, the weekend is drawing to its close, so there’s a bustling atmosphere with high expectations for the night ahead.

Unfortunately, they’re not immediately met. The MC, Willa White, disappoints: his material, too dependant on unoriginal working class stereotypes, sexism and vague homophobia, falls well short of the mark. I’ve heard better lines shouted up from the back of the bus by local schoolkids, and, although he does buoy up the crowd with some perfunctory shout-outs, there’s too many unamused faces to make this the best start to the evening.

Things don’t appear to look up when he introduces the next act, Abandoman, “Ireland’s seventh-biggest hip-hop crew”. With mainman Rob Broderick seeming like an Irish Michael McIntyre – posh and overly enthusiastic – and his moustachioed accomplice, James Hancox, wielding an acoustic guitar, it seems too cringeworthy to be true. How wrong first impressions can be.

Broderick charms the room, asking the crowd about their weird jobs, childhood wishes and the like, and working their answers into totally improvised, hilariously funny raps. One woman volunteers the fact that she brought the first shipment of Viagra into the country: cue a Kanye West-style number about the “erectile reptile”, with the audience providing the catchy refrain “Sinéad got me laid!”. Mundane pet peeves – unfilled ice trays, the smell of cut grass in the summer – become a revolutionary anthem that has some people (me) wiping away the tears. It’s hard to describe the incredible skill and on-the-spot talent that these guys exude – it’s something that needs to be seen live – but they prove to be the highlight of the night, stealing the show from under the main act’s feet.

It’s not even that Andrew Maxwell isn’t funny. He has a way with words – a compelling mixture of eloquence and expletive – and a biting delivery that can’t help but be funny, no matter what he’s talking about. It’s just that, tonight, he seems a bit lacklustre. Strolling onstage and announcing he’s horribly hungover, he’s missing any real sense of energy or animation, and he fails to set the place alight. His routine is very loose, with no noticeable theme or practised flow about it, and while there are plenty of laughs to be had, he never really strikes gold.

Relying heavily on audience interaction, Maxwell spends the first part of the show hosting a gentle slagging match between a drunken clamper and a man in a wheelchair laughing at the misery of the latters existence. After a joke about clamping the wheelchair, the tent fills with nervous laughter – how un-PC is too un-PC? – with Maxwell lamenting the newspaper headlines that could come with this. Borderline controversy is his best role and he turns it around to great effect, knowing that it could go either way.

Moving on, newspapers – this time from South Africa – are still on the agenda, with Maxwell questioning the headline “Cops Rape Cops” which ran in a Cape Town paper last year. Such irreverence suits him well, and continues on as he imagines an endowment contest between Irish and African men, and his parents reaction to a routine about unmentionable bedroom antics. It’s funny stuff, but nothing really stands out – it’s the kind of banter you’d expect to hear in the pub, and you’d have hoped for something a bit more memorable.

Ending by saying he hopes he hasn’t offended anyone, Maxwell leaves the stage to a bout of warm applause. He mightn’t have been on top form, but those cheery moods aren’t dampened, as everyone leaves to soak up the last remnants of this years festival.

By Orlaith Grehan.

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