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Andrew Maxwell on Altitude Festival: “If I didn’t look at bit smug, I’d be fucking mental”

Andrew Maxwell on Altitude Festival: “If I didn’t look at bit smug, I’d be fucking mental”
Sofie Hagen
  • On April 19, 2013
  • http://www.comedychords.com

Andrew Maxwell just returned from the Altitude festival, where some of the world’s best comedians take turns skiing, snowboarding, drinking and doing comedy shows. Andrew is the co-founder of the event, which takes place every year, and he has joined Comedy Chords for a quick chat.

The Altitude Comedy Festival takes place every year – this year, in Austria. The line-up consisted of comedians such as Eddie Izzard, Craig Campbell, Daniel Sloss, Terry Alderton, Phil Nichol, Benny Boot, Keith Farnan, Kai Humphries, Brendon Burns, Howard Marks, Joel Dommett, Phil Jupitus, Marcus Brigstocke and Andrew Maxwell.

What do you get when you gather a bunch of drunk comedians on a skiing resort? Andrew calms us down,

“There have been a few broken legs over the years, but not this year. It’s a nice bunch of people and there’s never any tension, it’s all just very mellow. Everyone is safe and sound.

This year was the third year the festival has been held in Austria. In the beginning, it was held in France.

“The creative agenda for the festival is to bring in comedians who speak other languages or who have other nationalities. First year we had French comedians, Belgians and French-Canadian. In Austria, we had German comics. Michael Mittermeier is one of the biggest comedians in Germany. I worked with him in Montreal a few years back and he became a friend of mine. This year, he did jokes both ‘auf deutch’ and in English.”

The audience at the Altitude Festival is quite small, considering that O2 Arena-comedians are playing. About 100 people get to enjoy the line-up. Andrew remembers,

“The audience had everything. Greeks, Russians, Italians, English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, a few Canadians, English-speaking Austrians, Germans, a fair number of Scandinavians – quite a few Swedes. It’s in the middle of Europe, so you get a bit of each.

The thing about Altitude is that it’s spring-time, so you can sunbathe and wear a top, and snowboard and ski during the day. By the evening time, people are very mellow. They’ve enjoyed themselves and the mountains and they’re ready to laugh. You’re on holiday, so you’re with the people you really love. It’s not like a normal Friday night comedy club where the people in the audience are out with fucking work colleagues and they’re stressed and they had to rush there from work. At Altitude, when the comedian walk on stage, the audience is pretty fucking happy. The comedy is the cherry on top of the ice-cream that’s their vacation.”

In the documentary (that can currently be found on ITV’s website), a camera crew is following Andrew Maxwell and the comedians during the whole festival. In some of the scenes, Andrew almost seem smug. Which is nothing but understandable.

“Well, I tried to downplay that, but you know, you can get screwed by that. If you’re too humble, you know. If they filmed me in the sunshine with my friends and I didn’t look a bit smug, I’d be fucking mental. It’s about enjoying yourself.”

“The highlight of this year was probably Terry Alderton getting a standing ovation. It was so great to see a guy who’s already a great comedian get such a response. All the comedians, everyone involved, we were all in the balcony slapping our thighs, just pissing ourselves laughing.”

One of the longterm goals of Altitude is to take it to the snowboarding winter resorts of the Middle East.

“That’s a very sincere and on-target goal, we’re hoping to reach within the next two years. When you’re sliding down a mountain at 50 miles pr hour, you have got time on your hands to think things through. I am inspired by the Arab spring. It has nothing to do with economics and it sure as shit has nothing to do with religion. It has all to do with demographic. All these countries have an extremely young population. 50% are under 25 years old so there’s a huge inspiration and desire that’s been held down by dictatorship or – geographic dictatorship, as in Iran – it’s all waiting to dissolve. Snowboarding is a big part of this youth culture. When you’re sliding down a mountain, you’re not thinking: Is the woman next to me shia or sunni? You’re just enjoying yourself.”

Andrew Maxwell knows what he’s doing and there’s more to come.

“I am making a series for Radio4, that will probably be titled ‘Public Enemies’. Where I’ll be visiting specific groups of people. Then I will be picking it apart, talking to eye witnesses, experts, and so on. We will be covering nationalism, the food industry, online security, you know, hackers – all of that. And then I do a stand-up show at the end of every episode.”

Which is something we, at Comedy Chords, are definitely looking forward too!

You can follow Andrew Maxwell on @andrewismaxwell

And you can still catch the documentary about the Altitude Festival on https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/altitude-comedy-festival

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