Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell back in town to headline first night of open-air Bishop's Stortford comedy festival
Andrew Maxwell may have never performed live in Bishop's Stortford, but when it comes to some of the fleshpots in the town he managed to reel off a few from his days living in Stansted Mountfitchet.
The Irish comedian spoke to the Indie before his first stand-up gig in the town, headlining this Friday night (June 25) for Paddy Lennox's two-day open-air comedy festival at The Bishop's Stortford High School.
Paddy has lined up arguably the finest collection of comedians ever assembled in the town – including TV and BBC Radio 4 talents, award-winners and Edinburgh Fringe Festival regulars.
"I've done a gig in The Square [Harlow] and at Paddy's Great Dunmow club but never Stortford," said Andrew.
"I drank a lot in the Star, which I remember as a place with a pool table and two-step music."
He recalls other night-life establishments in the town, name-checking JRs [most recently Water Lane bar] and recalling drinking in its various guises over the years.
"I remember the Juicy Duck and the furore when the name was changed to H2O," he added.
The pandemic for the comedy scene and performing arts in general has been a disaster, but Andrew said that it came at a time when he needed a break. He had just finished ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, completed tours of the UK and Ireland and made his acting debut in much-acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival play Julius 'Call Me Caesar' Caesar.
"I was kind of ready to get off the road," said the 47-year-old. He wasn't inactive during the coronavirus lockdown though, doing Zoom gigs and a lot of radio, including The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4.
He said the audiences, although socially distanced and via Zoom, had been "amazing" and he was looking forward to getting back to live gigging with a show booked for the Edinburgh Fringe called REALITY on August 27.
"It's been incredible balm for the soul for comedians," he said. "The last year has given us all a bit of time [to consider] what we appreciate."
He revealed that doing the Fringe could be stressful, but the pressure is off this time around as he has the material he would have used at the start of 2020.
He wasn't fazed by doing jokes about the pandemic. "The target isn't the victims of the disease, the target is the idiots who refuse to buy into any science."
Dismissive of the so-called cancel culture and social media in general, he isn't afraid to offend, but feels it has to be justified.
"It's like a maths exam – not only can you come up with the correct answer, but if called upon you can show your working."
And he feels his audience know what to expect. "If they trust you, you can say stuff."
One of his lockdown appearances came on BBC One quiz show Pointless Celebrities, screened recently, and as a big fan Andrew was delighted to be on it with fellow comedian Matt Richardson. He was, however, disappointed not to make the final, blaming his team's inability to understand how the world thinks.
A Dubliner from the northside, Andrew, who moved to the UK 27 years ago, has not been able to get back to his home country due to the pandemic. "It's the longest I've ever been not in Ireland," he said.
He disputes claims that many of today's comics are socialist-leaning and spout a left-wing agenda.
"For me it's not right wing or left wing, the comedian is essentially the little boy or girl who points out the emperor is naked.
"It's a case of did anybody ask Tommy Cooper what his politics were? We're just pointing out bulls***."
The festival will have a full bar and there will be Vietnamese street food plus grills from Bishop's Stortford's own The Secret Sausage Shop delivered straight to audience members' camp chairs and picnic rugs set up on their designated spots on the pavilion field. Drinks and food can be ordered via the Round app.
The gates open both nights at 6pm. The shows begin at 7.45pm and end at 10.45pm. There will be free parking.
Tickets, with a 25% discount for NHS and care staff, are £25 a head but could be as low as £16 a head if you go with up to seven friends or family. There are discounts for group bookings: 4 tickets for £80 (£20 a head), 6 for £108 (£18 a head) and 8 for £128 (£16 a head). They can be bought online at www.paddylennox.com.
The event is for over-16s only.