Ilford, Islamophobia And The London Comedy Circuit

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 30 months ago
Ilford, Islamophobia And The London Comedy Circuit ☆☆☆☆☆ 0

Dagenham, as Pete and Dud so deftly demonstrated, is intrinsically funny. That's something 24-year-old comic Jamali Maddix seems to have taken on board, because despite hailing from Ilford, he claims to be from Dagenham when on stage. "I'm a fraud," he laughs, as he joins us for a chat. Though Jamali himself admits he's feeling delicate following a night out in Hackney, he still manages to stuff the content of three sentences into one, and — when enthusiastic about something — fizzes over into high-pitched fervour.

Jamali still lives in Ilford now, so surely he must think pretty highly of it? "No. I can't afford to move out yet. But there's always going to be a love for it. When I was young I went somewhere really far... where was it?... I think it was Cornwall... or Devon... Devon! It was the most boring week I ever had in my life.

"I don't hate Ilford but at the same time it's not the most beautiful part of London sadly."

There are plenty of other areas of London Jamali prefers. "I love Shoreditch, and Brixton. Brixton's banging. If I didn't live so far away I'd be there all the time. I like Peckham Rye. My ex-girlfriend's sister was doing a play in the Bussey Building. I remember walking out and seeing a big queue... there was a rave going on, and it was one of the best raves I've been to in my life and I was like 'Whaat? This place is buzzing!' The food's great there. Right near the station there's that Caribbean place, where I go and get my patty and coco bread."

Photo by Ian Fox

Then, of course, there's the comedy mecca that is Angel.

"Angel's good for comedy. They've got the Angel Comedy club which is amazing. I done that the other day for the first time. People are queuing round the corner trying to get in," he enthuses, leaning forward — the high-pitched eagerness kicking in.

"London has the best comedy scene in the world. Top Secret in Covent Garden is banging. Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch — that's the first club that started paying me. The Comedy Store is made for comedy, everything is perfect. You know it's a good club when dudes like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK, the biggest comedians in the world, come there to warm up for their tour. There's a certain energy in that room. Them walls have laughter. It's a beautiful room, man."

Having scooped the Chortle Student Comedy Award last year, Jamali is now getting to the stage where he can gig with his comedy idols.

"A week ago I opened for Tom Stade. That's insane. It's a dude I was watching on TV... he's the funniest dude probably living now. One of the strongest bills I've ever done was in Austria — it was me, Andrew Maxwell, Abandon Man, Marcus Brigstock and Bill Bailey headlining. You're like, 'what the...?!'. You work with all the people you love.

"If I was a guy who worked in a pub doing open mic music, the likelihood of me doing a tune with Timberland... it's probably not going to happen."

There is perhaps, says Jamali, a downside to London's saturated comedy scene: "Say you could see Richard Herring... some people are like, 'meh'. You're spoilt. You go up north, I've seen people wearing ball gowns, going to the comedy wearing a bow-tie, like [excited] 'We're going to the comedy, mate!'"

Something else Londoners take for granted, says Jamali, is multiculturalism. There are some places in the UK where they go for edgier comedy, and some where they don't. "You talk about racism and they hate it... either it's closet racism, or they're so uncomfortable because there's no diversity.

"I done a gig the other day up north somewhere, and I was in a pub across the road waiting for the show to start and there were people that were going to the comedy club, in the pub, making explosion noises. I've had a couple of Islamophobic heckles, but I'm not a Muslim! I've had more Islamophobic abuse than I should have," he says drily.

Interestingly the 'go home' bit in the video above suggests the encounter happened in Dagenham, although it actually took place at Jamali's dad's house, outside London.

Is it perversely good to have the occasional bad thing come your way as a comedian? "The old saying is that if a tragedy happens in your life, you've got an Edinburgh show," says Jamali, "If my girlfriend breaks up with me you go, 'yeah that's sad, but I've got a new 20 minutes.' There are things where something happens to you, and you go, 'That's going to be a nice punch line to that one!'"

Whether or not he's been through a rough breakup lately, Jamali does indeed have a show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, as part of a package selected by The Pleasance in north London. His other blockbuster gig of the summer is at British Summer Time in Hyde Park, where he'll play to thousands alongside the likes of Jim Jefferies, Katherine Ryan and Glenn Wool.

"When I got that phone call I was like [here's that high-pitched enthusiasm again] 'WHAT'S the line-up?! HOW many people?!"

How many of those will turn up in ball gowns, remains to be seen.

Last Updated 01 June 2015

Ian Fox

Hi, I took the photo you're using to illustrate this article. It was for the studnt final at the Pleasance last year during the fringe festival. I'd appreciate the credit if possible. Thanks.