The comedian and host of Vice's Hate Thy Neighbour takes time off from the dangerous situations to come to Edinburgh
Once you've come face to face with neo-Nazis, members of the EDL and swastika-wearing militants, it may be hard to retain a sense of humour. But Jamali Maddix is relatively chilled out for a guy that has come up against all this and more. As the host of Viceland's Hate Thy Neighbour, Maddix has been sent around the world to meet with controversial groups in a bid to understand, and in some cases confront, the nuances of hatred.
'It was all quite a horrific shitty situation,' he says about filming the show. 'You learn bits and pieces here and there, different perspectives and how people come to adopt extreme ideas. But I think I learned more about showbiz than I did about the world and about social issues.' As a former Chortle Student Comedy Award winner, Maddix is popular on comedy circuits, despite becoming more known in the public eye as of late for his encounters with the alt-right. But even with the tough experiences of Hate Thy Neighbour under his belt, he is largely nonchalant about how this has changed his overall approach and attitude to comedy.
'I guess it's like with anything that you do, it probably affects the work. I wouldn't say Hate Thy Neighbour had a massive effect but when I was making that show, I didn't really have a lot of time to write stand-up. So it's made my turnover speed faster and it's helped me work on my storytelling structure. You can say what you want up there though. If you want to go up there and preach, you can. It's up to you, that's your prerogative. I still see it as comedy. There might be some bits where I'm talking about heavier topics but it's probably for my own ego than for the art form. I don't see it as this world-changing bastion; I'm quintessentially still telling jokes and I'm there to entertain people.'
Maddix is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as to stand-up itself, with his new show Vape Lord, which has the comedian reflecting on his travels and the state of the world in a typically frank and largely incredulous fashion. But having taken this short break from stand-up, he intends to use Edinburgh to find his comedic voice again.
'I've been filming for the last two months, and before that I was filming a TV show, so I haven't really fully structured my new show yet. It's a weird one because I'm doing Edinburgh with the intention of trying to develop the show while I'm up there. I haven't done stand-up in a hot minute and this is like me coming back to what I love doing. It's basically going to be me trying to work out where I am and what I want to talk about.'
Maddix has done his time at the Fringe, both as part of package shows and later, as a solo act, but even though his relaxed outlook suggests otherwise, he is all too familiar with the work involved in progressing through the world of comedy. 'When you're doing package shows,' he says, 'that's like the fun time because you're with a couple of mates and just running around, doing your slot and having fun doing 20 minutes a night. Then when you start doing solos, that's when the work starts in trying to progress as a comedian and trying to work on structure.'
Maddix may be ready for his return to stand-up with Vape Lord, but his attitude to his upcoming run at the Fringe is refreshing, highlighting a sense of contentment in what he has accomplished over this past year. 'Success is a weird thing. This will be one of the few times I've come to Edinburgh where I'm not thinking about it. I'll be honest with you, when I've had a more structured show, I've been more nervous going up but I'm really quite laid back about it this time. I just want to do stand-up; I'm not worried about this perceived notion of success. It's not my purpose this year. My purpose is really just to do some stand-up.'
Following his appearance in Edinburgh, Maddix will be taking Vape Lord around the UK, followed by dates in Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Lithuania and the USA. So with such a wide range of cultures, environments and audiences still to come, what does he hope that people will take from the show?
'For me, they take what they want to take. If they're upset with me, if they're happy with me, if they agree with me, if they disagree with me, that's on them. I just want to do stand-up. It's not some weird altruism either, I just like doing it and I hope people like to hear what I've got to say. And I'm happy with that. I'm a man of basic needs, really.'
Jamali Maddix: Vape Lord, Monkey Barrel, 3–26 Aug (not 13), 6pm, £8. Preview 2 Aug, £6 (£5). Tickets in advance or donation at the venue.