Challenging status quo with comedy

Maxwell Apse, who goes by the stage name Mx Well, is bringing their musical comedy Gender Marxist...
Maxwell Apse, who goes by the stage name Mx Well, is bringing their musical comedy Gender Marxist to this year's Dunedin Fringe Festival. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A transgender and nonbinary comedian is challenging the status quo and honouring a friend’s death — all while trying to make people laugh.

Gender Marxist is the debut comedy show from Wellington transgender and nonbinary comedian Maxwell Apse, who uses they/them pronouns and goes by the stage name Mx Well.

Last year, they walked away from Wellington’s Fringe Festival as winner of the Fringe Tour Ready Award and will bring their set down to Dunedin at this year’s festival.

Mx Well said they were following in the footsteps of many transgender and nonbinary comedians, whose shows dealt with personal stories of discovering their gender identity.

But this show was different.

Mx Well said this show was in response to the current government "and their lackadaisical understanding of the queer identity and our rights, and in some case their actual attacks on us".

"I want to talk about current events that are really important to me, but also I want it to be fun and funny — it’s a hard line to walk sometimes.

"What has always been important for me in comedy was being able to read the room and being aware of what's happening.

"I don't feel it would be responsible of me to do a comedy show without acknowledging where we are and what's happening."

Their friend, drag queen and fellow award-winning comedian Cole Hampton, known on stage as Pamela Hancock, died in 2022, which added another layer of responsibility to the show.

The set would be packed with plenty of satirical songs, including one sung from the perspective of a censorship-crazed conspiracist.

But Mx Well said they were not picking on just the "obvious enemies of queer people, which is conservatives and the alt-right" — they would also tear into liberal voices who offered performative support for the queer community.

A big part of the show was underlining attacks on queer people, but Mx Well said these were not distinct from the economic environment but were a direct result of it.

Comedy, in particular, benefited from diversity in a more immediate way than most art forms, as it was unfiltered and delivered directly from the performer to the audience.

"If you go to see comedy from a demographic that you don’t know much about, you’re going to hear new jokes," Mx Well said.

"You’re going to hear jokes that you’ve never heard before from perspectives that you’ve never heard before.

"You’re going to laugh more and laugh at different things."

While a lot of people were privileged enough that matters of gender did not directly affect them, Mx Well said it was important to listen to transgender and queer voices, as the issues that affected them tied everyone together.

"Anything that can happen to us can happen to you," they said.

"There’s no way to cordon off hatred to just one community ... there’s always collateral damage."

Gender Marxist debuts at Yours cafe, in Moray Pl, on March 21.