While Viceland’s latest offering of Hate Thy Neighbour may leave you as dumbstruck as comedian-come-host Jamali Maddix, who described the show as “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever been involved in”, that should not deter you from giving it a chance. Thrust into the University of California Berkley campus “Free Speak Week” (an ironic title, given its subsequent cancellation), Maddix follows its young Republican organisers and their more than willing poster boy Milo Yiannopoulous on their turbulent journey. However, rather than being suffocated by Milo’s provocative political musings, he is granted little airtime and instead Maddix takes central stage. He’s a millennial Louis Theroux type; a quirky Brit with the same relaxed and rather naïve questioning style, just with an updated dress sense.
The new series itself has a fresh approach, interspersing a documentary style with Maddix’ stand up set, and former Chortle Student Comedian of the Year does not hold back.
Indeed, Maddix nails Milo as the egocentric and somewhat inept provocateur that he is. Referring to Trump as ‘Daddy’ and proclaiming himself as ‘Madonna in the 1990s’, Milo’s jittering self-eulogising comes across as rather awkward in the face of Maddix’s laid back approach. But there is some venom behind the bravado. When asked if he is worried about the riots that have already greeted previous speeches, Milo just teasingly flirts with the idea, hinting he ‘can’t guarantee anything’ and confirms that he will attend the event despite its cancellation.
You end up feeling sorry for the young Republican organisers, who in one particularly calamitous episode, receive an onslaught of incendiary leaflets bearing homophobic slurs and proclaiming ‘Stalin would kill you’. Like Maddix, you just have to laugh along at the madness of it. It is, as always, the person devoid of any rationality who shouts the most and thus generates the most clicks and attention. With Maddix repeatedly shouted down and interrupted, he sums it up best when he says ‘all we filmed was two people arguing about the right to argue. There was no point made.’ But it does raise important questions about how far some will go to protect the first amendment. It’s a contentious matter that resonates even across the pond in UK universities.
The answer is deliberately not forthcoming, and Maddix goes against the grain of political commentators like Milo to tell the audience to think for themselves. The comic relief of Maddix’s set, however, is certainly needed to frame this serious yet thought-provoking debate.
Image: Pax Ahimsa Gethen via Wikimedia Commons