“It doesn’t mean anything,” a voice chuckles down the phone to me on a sweltering Friday afternoon. “It’s just, you know, vaping is really lame. And I vape! I just find the idea of really knuckling down and saying ‘yeah, I love vaping’ really funny.”
Jamali Maddix, creator of the show Vape Lord, had spoken. I had asked, of course, about where the name Vape Lord came from – in my mind I had been half-expecting an hour of ridiculous vape tricks with huge clouds of cotton filling the stage, but it turns out it’s a comedy show. Handy, that.
You may have come across Jamali before – whether it be from his many performances on the comedy circuit after his victory in the Chortle Student Comedian of the Year contest in 2014, his TV appearances on Live At The Apollo and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, or possibly from his own Viceland documentary series Hate Thy Neighbour, in which he interviews people with extreme views around the world.
“That show ruined my life!” he says, laughing. “I’m joking, of course. It’s given me a great platform and it’s helped me get to where I am now with touring and stuff.” During the course of the show, Jamali came face to face with people who hated him purely because of who he was, in some cases with physical assault as a risk. What made him do something so dangerous? “I didn’t think about it, to be honest. It was just a job. The people that do this shit, they’re idiots but at the same time not idiots, most of them. They know I’m there to do a job… I was younger and dumber then, though. I didn’t really understand the industry.”
Vape Lord brings Jamali back to doing what he really loves – stand up. “I always liked comedy, and I never wanted to work a real job. I grew up in London, so open mics were never far away.” Vape Lord is his biggest tour yet. If the name itself is a joke, what’s the show actually about? “It’s not a story show, that’s not how I write. My type of through line of a show is that I write how I feel at the time – when I write an hour it’s about the emotion. One year the theme might be that I’m pissed off, for example – I’m taking it to Edinburgh but I don’t want something that’s just an Edinburgh show, I want something I can take on tour, something I can play with. This one’s a bit weird to be honest… it’s mainly about how my life has changed, and my mentality has changed, being things I never thought I’d be.”
One thing that caught my eye while I was preparing for this interview was that a lot of Jamali’s shows have publicity quotes saying that he’s “not for the easily offended”, something which usually gets applied to A Certain Type of comedian, and I mention that he doesn’t strike me as that type. “Yeah, it’s weird that those are the quotes I get, it’s not the type of comedy I do. I love those quotes, though! I don’t see myself as a contrarian. I’ve never had people upset at my shows. I suppose I do want an audience that’s willing to hear something different, or an idea that they might not agree with.”
This rings true with interviews I’ve seen where he lists Bill Hicks as an influence. “Yeah. Every generation has a comedian that they try and copy, I think Bill Hicks is ours. My influences are a huge range, though – I love Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, they’re the best in the world, but I’m just as influenced by my contemporaries on the circuit doing great work like Fin Taylor or Alfie Brown – I watch them and I think shit, I need to write better jokes!”
Vape Lord comes to the Cookie on Tuesday 25th September. Tickets are available at thecookieleicester.co.uk.