British comedian Jamali Maddix will be helping New Zealanders laugh at Nazis with season two of Hate Thy Neighbour, streaming on Neon. Yes, watching him hang out with various extremist groups and then take the piss out of them is often shocking and horrific, writes Daniel Rutledge—but let’s never forget to laugh at these bozos.
It’s hard to tell if the world is more full of hate now than at any other time, but it’s not hard to argue that hate is more visible that it’s ever been. There are cameras everywhere, all the time, able to immediately put whatever they record online and attract an audience of millions—even billions. But the internet also means AI-driven algorithms push people toward hateful content with a kind of magical turbo. One day someone is watching a video that has self-help information they hope will lead to a better night’s sleep and less anxiety—not long later they’re watching a video from someone explaining how their sleeplessness and unhappiness is all the fault of the Jews.
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Enter Jamali Maddix, a British comedian with a disarming charm and jovial friendliness who has made two seasons of TV exploring this hateful modern world. He hangs out with various extremist groups, hobnobs with literal Nazis and such, trying to understand why they believe what they do and then later taking the piss out of them for his and our amusement. It’s a great show for informing the factionalised and radicalised world we live in that is 2020. Yes, it’s often shocking and horrific, but let’s never forget to laugh at these fucking bozos.
Comparisons have been made to Louis Theroux, of course, but Jamali is quite different. He’s less probing, less serious and his stand-up comedy about encountering hate groups is edited into each episode along with the encounters themselves. Instead of a voiceover track to explain his take on things or take narrative shortcuts, the comedy bits are used instead for a humorous version of essentially the same thing. Also, Jamali is named Jamali and has great big bushy beard that means he’s sometimes referred to in incredibly offensive terms by the folks he hangs out with (including at least one vile slur that doesn’t even make sense, as Jamali dissects). How he looks and who he is gives Hate Thy Neighbour a different flavour than the work of Theroux—who, y’know, looks like a bog-standard white man.
In season one, Jamali travels around the world chatting to neo-Nazis in the US, the UK, Scandinavia and the Ukraine, along with some Black Hebrew Israelites and a far-right Jewish extremist group in Israel. It’s frequently disturbing as interviewees deny the holocaust, call for another, or generally express a desire for races to be viciously separated. All the while, Jamali’s warm grin and cheeky laugh emphasise the surrealness, while his comedy bits mock the sheer stupidity and contradictory nature of the racists.
In season two, joking that he’s “solved racism” with the earlier episodes, Jamali spends all 10 episodes in Donald Trump’s America and expands the focus from just racists to incorporate all sorts of ideological battles. He chats with pro-lifers and sovereign citizens, visits a ‘scared straight’ prison camp for kids and hangs out with a group of border vigilantes. Yep, don’t worry, he doesn’t entirely abandon racists. In an episode entitled ‘Feminism 101’, Jamali acknowledges how silly it is for a bloke to try and learn all about feminism in a week then distil it down into a 42 minute episode. But he gives it a go anyway, chatting with different types of modern feminists with very different viewpoints about an impending LA slut walk. He also interviews two anti-feminists—one a trans woman, one a cis woman—to ensure the crazy factor of this episode isn’t too imbalanced compared to others.
Jamali has a pretty high tolerance for hate speech. He usually refuses to take sides and tell the audience what to think, but occasionally calls a spade a spade. The show doesn’t say this explicitly, but Jamali appears to be a defender of free speech—a let dickheads say what they want to say and ignore them type guy. But his show does point out the difference between dickheads saying dickhead shit—generally to capitalise on the ensuing outrage—and hate groups actively seeking to eradicate certain groups of people.
In a season two episode, he heads to UC Berkeley ahead of and during the Milo Yianoppolous ‘week of free speech’. There, he chats with people passionately opposed to the former Breitbart writer’s appearance along with those fighting for his right to say dickhead shit on campus, and yes even Yianoppolous himself. Jamali becomes increasingly frustrated with the ridiculousness of the conflict, before making his feelings very plain at the end.
“Don’t watch this episode,” Jamali tells his live audience. “Genuinely, don’t watch this—if you’ve watched it now, it’s too late, but tell a friend. It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever been involved in. It was genuinely fucking ridiculous. What the fuck did we film? Basically we just filmed two different groups of people arguing about the right to fucking argue. There was not one point made.”
It contrasts sharply with a memorable scene from season one when he addresses the camera operator from inside a Ku Klux Klan area of the US. It comes after a conversation with a man with whom he’d been hanging out and chatting with for some days—who suggests Jamali’s parents should have aborted him as they were of different races. That man is notorious scumbag Jeff Schoep, who then refuses to say bi-racial couples such as Jamali’s parents wouldn’t be forced to undergo abortions if his National Socialist Movement came into power.
It cuts to Jamali looking visibly shaken and using really strong language I can’t repeat here to say he needs to get the hell away from those horrible Nazis. It’s powerful and probably his most emotional moment of the entire show.
Schoep is a particularly loathsome character propagating patently offensive views, but one can’t ignore how funny he and his buddies look playing dress-ups with brown shirts and shiny black boots. Jamali can barely hold back giggles when he discovers Schoep ends phonecalls with “88” instead of “goodbye”, and finds it hilarious how he doesn’t think he is a white supremacist, a racist or even hateful.
“You can’t through to him,” Jamali tells his stand-up audience, because he’s just a “dumb, ignorant Nazi. If there wasn’t Nazism, it’d be something else—he’d be the guy who puts the cat in the bin.”
“Remember that lady who put the cat in the bin? Nobody talks about that shit no more, but she was evil!”
“She put a cat in the bin! That’s Jeff.”