FRINGE 2018: Why you need to see... Andrew Maxwell and Reginald D Hunter
Who: Andrew Maxwell and Reginald D Hunter
What: Andrew Maxwell – Shake a Leg; Reginald D Hunter – An American Facing the Beasts and the Niggas
Where: Maxwell – Assembly George Square Theatre; Hunter – The Pentland Theatre, Pleasance.
When: Maxwell – 9pm; Hunter – 8.30pm
I decided to put these two titans of the Fringe together, not because of the similarities of the shows or their delivery, but because of the dextrous way that they control their audiences. Genius comes in many forms.
But what Maxwell and Hunter do is rare: the manipulation of emotion, the tiny pauses and facial expressions that tease a crowd into open laughter where other, lesser comics would hear nothing but the sound of pins dropping. It’s an art form that they’ve honed over many years – Maxwell began stand-up in 1992 aged 18, Hunter is at Edinburgh with his 20th show.
Both men filled fairly cavernous venues and from the first minute each had their respective audiences eating out of their hands. Although Maxwell’s show is called ‘Shake a Leg’ it should really be called ‘Who Told You That’. It’s a dissection of the sorts of conspiracy theories and maniacal right-wing opinions that have pervaded post-Brexit society.
From a man who believed unequivocally that not a single Jew was killed on 9/11, to aliens, Area 51 and all points in between, it’s slick, sharp and full of the sorts of everyday observations you’d expect from someone who’s at the forefront of British comedy. And everybody is fair game, including his 17-year-old son who’s the brunt of the finest one-liner I’ve heard at the Fringe thus far.
The sense of utter control that comedians like Maxwell (and Hunter) have over an audience must be akin to a footballer who can’t stop scoring. On this night the Dubliner is Mo Salah. If Mo Salah did the Irish border and dirty Belfast accents.
"@RachelFairburn swaggers onto the stage with all the cocksure confidence of a Glastonbury headliner. From the outset, it is clear that she is a performer at the top of her game." https://t.co/9mxxGmaQKP
— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) August 10, 2018
Hunter’s hero growing up was OJ Simpson. What happened in Brentwood in 1994 – understandably – has eliminated the memories of what had gone before. But before the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, Simpson was a superstar of the gridiron, a veritable touchdown machine. Hunter too was scoring big with every punchline. But there was a vulnerability to his performance that I’d not seen before.
Unusually he began with an apology about how he’d not been firing on all cylinders so far in Scotland; “I’m not sharp,” he mused. And he was right: at times he was off-target. He would lose track of where he was going, as if he was trying out new material rather than a fully formed Edinburgh show in its second week. And yet when it came to laughs, to pure, unadulterated belly laughs, he – to continue the sporting analogy – was a Super Bowl winner.
His soft Georgia drawl, his use of swear words and his utter confidence in what’s funny and what his audience love is what continues, even after two decades, to set him apart. His show, a sort of ode to his newly discovered daughter and a wistful lament to his late mother needs work as a performance. But as a performer he is almost unmatched. And he’s lost none of his ability to shock. His final tale of the night, involving two Katy’s, a Nigel, a Bill, an OJ and a disabled boy brought gasps from the crowd. It also brought the house down. And for the titans of Edinburgh that’s almost second nature.