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Piste In Our Time
A comedy festival in the Austrian alps in the middle of ski season? The brainchild of Dublin’s Andrew Maxwell, Altitude Comedy Festival shouldn’t work but it does.
John Donellan, 11 Apr 2012
Imagine falling asleep at a comedy gig then waking up to your worst nightmare. You’re on stage with a microphone in your hand, no jokes in your head and the comedian in the audience throwing plastic chairs and screaming, “Get off, you’re shit!” This was the fate of one punter caught napping by an almost naked Terry Alderton at this year’s Altitude Festival. It was also the stand-out ‘you had to be there’ moment in six days of stunning shows set in spectacular Alpine surrounds.
Altitude, a week of slopes and jokes, is the brainchild of Andrew Maxwell and English comic Marcus Brigstocke. Held in Mayrhofen, Austria, for its week long duration it has the densest concentration of comedy talent and alcoholics in the world.
Headliners were Tim Minchin, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr and Kevin Bridges. But beneath the stadium-filling names there was a phalanx of talent. Maxwell curates this line-up and he seems to have picked not only the best but the most likeable bunch of guys and gals. Ed Byrne had the thankless task of appearing between Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle. He quickly got into his stride. Mr. Boyle was on form. We expected outrage, cruelty and misogyny and it was all there. What I wasn’t expecting was his quiet authority and, believe it or not, warmth.
Earlier, current king of comedy Jimmy Carr was a huge hit. Lines such as, “One in three American women is obese… as are the other two.” What really impressed was when he went off piste to deal with a heckling ski instructor.
Tim Minchin is now a stadium act and seems impossibly talented at everything he does. He’s dark too, every bit as dark as Frankie Boyle, but gets away with it because of expertly applied Duke Special-esque eyeliner, virtuoso piano skills and the lack of a big scary beard. I’m told he has been snowboarding down the black slopes after just two days of instruction. The words of his song, ‘Fuck You Motherfucker’ spring to mind.
There were only two ladies all week, Andi Osho and Tiffany Stevenson. Tiffany was good but Andi was excellent. She must have been nervous trying to follow Terry Alderton on Thursday night after the incident described above. Still, she nailed it. Referencing the cliché of black people rarely skiing, she comments, “The last time I went on stage at a ski resort, I thought I was being auctioned.”