One of the reasons Maxwell is more off-the-cuff this year is that, within a few performances in Edinburgh, he had rewritten and reordered his show. This was partly in response to events: "I thought we could never have suicide bombers in this country. I was wrong," he admits to the audience.
The rewrite resulted in him relinquishing his slot compèring the Pleasance launch and allowing Robin Ince to pick up the plaudits. But it was obviously worth it, as he appears to be gaining momentum in each show.
The freeform show has a few phrases repeated from last year, including his great line about letting gay men get on with their lives: "Let them eat cake, I mean cock." Also familiar is the ending to his story about going to see Hibernian play Rangers (whom he describes as "the sporting wing of the Nazi party"), but in this case it is the journey, not the destination, that matters.
As with last year's routine, Maxwell picks out interesting angles from news stories. He spots how, after the bombs in London, ordinary people were being used as reporters on rolling news programmes. He uses the example of a fictional street rascal who initially spouts the same platitudes as everyone else - "We've got to carry on as normal" - before adding "mugging and dealing". On the tension on the Tube, Maxwell muses: "If someone got up and started masturbating on the Tube, it would be considered light relief." He's probably right.
At one point, it seems that Maxwell is in danger of dwelling too long on the recent grave events in the capital, even with a noticeable London contingent in the house. But he does eventually talk as much about Scotland, cannily covering his geographical bases. He crosses the border on the issue of terrorism, delivering a nice set-piece about Osama bin Laden and his followers "thinking outside the cave" were they ever to decide to target Scotland.
It's impossible not to like this enthusiastic clown, as he would have us call comedians. The look on his face is one of shared joy, as if he is talking to you in conver- sation, and laughing as if his jokes are yours. This great king is an inclusive ruler, and he certainly has the obedience of his audience.
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