Andrew Maxwell had a mixed time on I’m A Celebrity, but is delighted to be back on the stand-up circuit, writes
IT’S not everybody’s idea of fun. Who wants to pass interminable weeks in an oven-hot jungle, away from family and friends, being gorged on by mosquitos, routinely having to carry out retch-inducing tasks? All on a diet of rice and beans for food, nerves frayed to cracking point from sleep deprivation, while the TV-viewing public looks on at your daily humiliation.
When Andrew Maxwell got the call to go on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, though, he jumped at the chance. OK, the money he got for it, reportedly around the €60,000 mark, must have helped.
“I was blown away,” says Maxwell. “It’s 13 million people in Britain, and half a million in Ireland, who watch it. It’s like a TV national institution. I’ve spent a lot of time gigging in Australia. It’s in cities, of course, connected to comedy festivals. I’ve always been curious about getting out to the bush, or ‘the jungle’, as it’s called on television. I thought, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When is someone going to pay me to live in a tropical rainforest in the jungle for weeks on end? So I went for it.”
Maxwell, who was taking part in the nineteenth edition of the jungle-test reality TV show, was joined by a series of British celebrities, including Nadine Coyle and the winner, a former EastEnders actor, Jacqueline Jossa, as well as the star American attraction, Caitlyn Jenner.
“It gave me a real insight into food insecurity and what it does to your mind,” says Maxwell. “Your body is screaming. Where’s the food? Why is there no food? Will we ever get fed again? There’s physiological stuff that happens to you. In the first 48 hours, you start stuttering. Everybody got it. We were all thinking, what the hell is happening? We were told it was just a phase as the sugar was leaving our systems, and then it passed.”
Maxwell didn’t always have an easy ride, emotionally. He had a choking attack in one scene when some camel meat got stuck in his throat. The exhaustion got to him, too. He had some tetchy exchanges with surly ex-footballer Ian Wright, for example, and Maxwell broke down at one stage, admitting to Jossa he was feeling “overwhelmed”.
Like the other contestants, he also had to contend with being monitored, with the more stressful moments and personality clashes being churned out for the titillation of television viewers.
“Nobody is used to constant observation,” says Maxwell. “The thing is when you’re on an upswing and you’re feeling good, you don’t mind. It’s when — for whatever reason — it all starts to get to you, if you’re feeling down, if you start thinking [about] everybody who doesn’t like you, it can really prey on your mind.”
Maxwell says he devised a coping mechanism from his previous experience on a reality TV show. In 2004, he was boxed up for several weeks living in a Big Brother-style house with seven fellow comics in a one-off Channel 4 vehicle, Kings of Comedy, a Russell Brand-presented show that Maxwell won.
“What I learned from Kings of Comedy is just don’t imagine anybody is watching it. Or in my case, I just imagined that I was being constantly observed by a female goddess, who was slightly randy and omnipotent. You gotta play those mind games with yourself.”
Maxwell was the second contestant to be voted off the show, 16 days into the adventure, but its impact still resonates. It has helped raise his profile, and to promote his shows, including his current Irish stand-up tour.
“It’s been a great experience,” says Maxwell. “The lasting exposure from the jungle is all helping like gangbusters with ticket sales.”
The Dublin comic, who has been based in the UK since the 1990s, won’t, however, be pushing to go back on the show as a contestant.
“Number one: nobody’s been invited on it twice,” he says, “but I’d certainly like to go along and take the mickey out of people stranded in the jungle. That sounds fun.”