“Naw, it’s all right. I’ve seen a lot worse,” he insists with a distinct drawl that immediately gives him away as a native of what Americans might call the more “blue-collar” areas of London — West London to be exact.
Maddix is in the midst of a U.S. tour, something he’s done before, so he doesn’t necessarily feel the British-U.S. comedy divide that’s often bandied about. For Maddix, if something is funny, it’s funny anywhere in the world.
“Last time I came out here, it was pre-pandemic and shit,” he says. “I just wanted to get out of England, man, and America is a country that I love.”
To many Americans, that idea may seem ludicrous, what with the U.S.'s ever more precipitous slide into idiocracy. But it’s not exactly like the U.K. is doing any better (see: Brexit and Boris Johnson).
“We had our right-wing government now for — I think the Tories have been since I was a kid,” says Maddix, who's 30. “The Tony Blair Noughties was a long time ago.”
But in some way, you can excuse Americans' ignorance about what’s happening outside of their country’s borders. It’s a blind spot Brits have been exploiting for years, convincing Americans that everyone in the U.K. lives like a cast member on The Crown.
You only have to look to shows like Love Island and Geordie Shore to know that Americans don’t hold a monopoly on trash.
“Aw, mate, we do trash well,” Maddix affirms. “Across Europe, British tourists are considered the worst — you know what I’m sayin’? We are not liked.
"Americans don’t know a lot about British people. What Americans know about British people is very specific things: The Crown, The Queen — do you know what I mean? But, bro, we are trash.”
What British people also do very well is comedy, and Maddix is a testament to that. The son of a Jamaican father and a mother of Greek descent, Maddix toils in the mine of uncomfortable truths — whether rooted in racism, classicism, or religion — to extract nuggets of comedy.
Of course, what's okay to say in England might be taboo in the U.S. But for the most part, Maddix sees Americans as more willing to discuss matters of race than British audiences.
“You can talk about race here more than you can talk about it back home,” he says. “Back in England, we don’t really like to talk about race that much. It’s just as racist back home, but England has a thing about politeness, and it’s not as open as it is here.”
That said, there's one topic that’s not as warmly received in some parts of the U.S. as it is back home.
“You go to the South or Oklahoma — they still care about God stuff or nationalism,” he says. “If you talk about God here, it still gets a reaction, where back home if I go on stage and say, ‘There is no God,’ no one cares ‘cause we all don’t kind of believe in it, whereas here, you guys still rock with it.”
It’s not as if Americans haven't been exposed to contemporary British humor, thanks to the warp speed at which streaming services make shows like Fleabag and Chewing Gum available to American audiences. At the turn of the century, if you wanted to watch British comedies, you had to tune into PBS to Fawlty Towers, Mr. Bean, or Keeping Up Appearances.
For Maddix, the whole debate that Americans don’t “get” British humor is nonsense.
“I think a lot of it is that we’re talking about stuff from 20 or 30 years ago,” he suggests. “I think because of the internet, that gap across the pond isn’t as vast anymore. And when my generation grew up, we grew up watching American comedies. It’s not like there is a massive divide in what the styles are.”
Maddix believes good comedy is universal regardless of geography. He also believes good comedy isn’t afraid to go there.
“I believe that everything can be made into a joke,” Maddix says. “I don’t believe in these sacred things that we don’t talk about in comedy. If it’s funny, it’s funny.”
Jamali Maddix. 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 17, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 855-732-8992; gramps.com. Tickets cost $25 via eventbrite.com.