"If there are any reviewers in tonight, gimme four stars. Nah I'm only joking, it's a three star show." To be honest that's what I thought for much of the hour. It was clear that Maddix wasn't giving his all, and he even flippantly said "I'm giving 70%" as he leaned against the back wall of Monkey Barrel and took a long drag on his vape. But it was the last third of the show and his final, raw and unplanned monologue at the end that left me with goosebumps and made this so much more than just a tired performance from a great comedian.
His righteous anger reminds me of a young Bill Hicks
If you've seen Maddix before then you know what to expect. Most of the show is a platform for his misanthropic and entertaining rants on racism, class and sex. He talks about how the Vice show Hate Thy Neighbour (that he hosted) is ruining his career, and the effect that diving into some of the most racist communities in the world had on him. He talks about his conflicting allegiances, having grown up in working class Ilford and now living somewhere in the hipsterised heartland of London: "I want to be angry about gentrification, but at the same time it's delicious!" He talks about how easily offended liberal white people get, especially when he calls them "ham sandwich-eating devils." It's all good and funny stuff.
Maddix is also well known for his aggressive and hilarious crowd work. He (pretty much always) manages to walk on the right side of the line, attacking an old white guy in the fourth row for having "'I want slave', eyes" and getting real with a dad who brought his sixteen-year-old daughter along to an eighteen-plus show: "shit's about to get fucked up." I loved these bits. Everyone seemed game, and his anger was just tempered enough to retain an edge of charm that let him get away with some pretty hairy stuff.
So far, so good, but the final third was quite remarkable. He moved into some material about "white feminism versus black people" that touched on some incredibly nuanced and complex social issues. Then talked again about his Vice show, about an experience he had in the mosh pit at a white power music festival. It was here that Maddix broke from his planned material (I checked with the sound man afterwards, and he said that he'd never done that before). What followed was a dark, heartfelt monologue about his experience as a black man living in a country that feels increasingly hostile towards him and people like him. "I feel like a stranger in my own country" he said.
As he took a bow and eschewed the standard bucket speech there was a palpable tension in the air. We'd seen a stand-up comedy show but we'd also seen something else: a man genuinely exploring his thoughts and feelings on stage, in front of us, in a way that was more real than most of the shows I've seen at the Fringe. In that moment I witnessed something profound, and saw a glimmer of the awesome comedian that Maddix might become. His righteous anger reminds me of a young Bill Hicks, and I reckon his job now (if he decides to continue performing) is to harness that realness and channel it into his performance. He's really good now, but he could be great.