Interview: Andrew Maxwell

Abigail SaltmarshIf you see a stand-up comedian swimming down the Wensum next week, don't worry. It's probably just funnyman Andrew Maxwell. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH dove in to found out more.Abigail Saltmarsh

If you see a stand-up comedian swimming down the Wensum next week, don't worry. It's probably just funnyman Andrew Maxwell. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH dove in to found out more.

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It is probably still a bit cold for most of us to even contemplate stripping off and plunging into the North Sea - but not Andrew Maxwell.

The Irish comedian is looking forward to his visit to Norwich next week as much for the water we have here in the area as for his performance.

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Andrew, who arrives in the city on Wednesday to perform at the Norwich Playhouse as part of his first ever national tour, is a keen 'wild swimmer.'

So if he decides not to head out to Holkham or Winterton, you might just see him taking a dip somewhere unexpected.

'Wherever I go, I like to find a lake or river to swim in. I love wild swimming and have heard there are plenty of great places in Norfolk,' he says.

Andrew's love of spontaneous swimming is in keeping with his style of comedy. By his own admission he likes to get up on stage - and then to just see where things seem to head once he gets talking.

Many comedians might be daunted by an apparent lack of structure but Dublin-born Andrew almost seems to relish it.

In fact, he believes this is how some of the very best comedy comes about.

'I run quite a loose ship,' Andrew admits. 'I think it's always better not to be over-prepared. That is when you get the real belly laughs that bring tears to people's eyes.'

Andrew, whose tour is a preparation for his first DVD, is a familiar face from TV shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News For You, Celebrity Juice and Argumental.

He first broke into comedy back in 1992, at the age of 18, when he took the mic at a local club run by Father Ted comic Ardal O'Hanlon.

Two years later he began to play on the international stand up circuit and was then given warm-up slots on TV shows such as Jonathan Ross, Johnny Vaughan, and They Think It's All Over.

From 1995, he made regular appearances on BBC Two's Sunday Show, which was transmitted live from Manchester.

In 2005, he was named the Comic's Comic in the Chortle Awards. He then went on to appear in The Secret Policeman's Ball and in 2007 was nominated for the if.comedy Award for the best show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

'I think I'm a conversationalist,' he goes on. 'I like to tease it out with the audience.

'I guess the first half of my show is really is really one long conversation, a warm-up. In the second half I then get to the subject matter.'

It is because Andrew loves to chat so much that he finds television panel shows particularly enjoyable, and is a regular on many of the more popular ones.

As well as appearances on Mock the Week, he is well-known in Ireland for frequently taking part in current affairs and comedy show The Panel. 'I do enjoy the television work but I also enjoy the freedom of having more time to get into a conversation when I am live on stage,' he stresses.

This tour sees him try out material in a number of venues across the country, before heading to London to film his DVD.

This summer there will also be festivals, including Edinburgh, of course, as well as Glastonbury and Bestival.

Having founded ski resort comedy festival Altitude with Marcus Brigstocke four years ago, Andrew then plans to push the boundaries of his live shows by performing in the Middle East - Israel, Lebanon and even Iran.

'The shows would be in a ski resort in Iran. I think it would be fun,' he explains.

But for now, his entertainment will have to come from the wild waters of Norfolk, and his conversational comedy directed at the audience in Norwich.

'It's going to be good. I'm looking forward to it - and being able to have a swim somewhere while I'm in Norwich will make it all the more fun,' he adds.

t Andrew Maxwell plays Norwich Playhouse on May 26, �12 (�10 cons), 01603 598598,