Altitude Comedy Festival 2012 review

Ski goggles and giggles in Austria

Altitude Comedy Festival 2012 review

Photographer:Anthony Upton

Chris Swindells - 04 April 2012

9am: Frankie Boyle is walking in the Austrian hills, a book firmly grapsed in hand and a hood over his head. The night before he’s played one of his most intimate shows in years, with traditionally violent vitriol and narcissistic glee, it has, as Frankie would have wanted it, gone down a controversial storm.

Altitude Comedy Festival is the pairing of what, at first, seem like strange bedfellows: stand-up comedy and winter sports, and everything a holiday of that kind entails. Mayrhofen in Austria is one town where you can’t go wanting, with a deluge of slopes suitable for everyone from the beginner to the most experienced Eddie 'be the snow' Eagle fan. Late in the season Altitude is blessed in its fifth year with beautiful sunshine and great snow. Originally curated by Marcus Brigstocke and Andrew Maxwell, the latter remains an integral figure in the festival, and in his seeming omnipresence he brings a feel good attitude to Altitude, often compering proceedings with the familiarity of an old friend.

Headliners like Jimmy Carr might stop over for just hours but the majority of acts on the bill will take the chance to relax and do a few shows in the town over the week. Seeing Kevin Bridges haunting the local discotheque might seem weird but when Andi Osho is giving out lessons to fellow comedians on the mountain top you have to question quite what looking glass you've stepped through. Did the Comedy Roadshow just go off-route and off-piste?

Marcus Brigstock and Phill Jupitus oversee afternoon mass for the five days. The pair are joined by comedy stalwarts for their Early Edition and Improv Show respectively and lead a defiantly early gaggle of fans to a rapturous end in the bar of a central Mayrhofen hotel.

Everything about this festival is innately intimate, and the late night shows give everyone a chance to get lubricated and laugh in a bar which embodies the feel and flavour of a British comedy club, and all the triumph, maladroit failure and lewd heckling that brings. Scene regulars like Ben Norris can work through any distraction, with a bank of punchy one-liners: "I met an unemployed dwarf recently with a sign saying 'No job too small'."

With the fast-paced turnover Terry Alderton quickly becomes the star of the festival, and by Wednesday has fallen over in front of the bar, just minutes before he goes on, heralding pandemonium from onlookers. Brushed up and back on his feet he proves at 2am his stage show is equally unpredictable, a lesson in where improv and wild theatrics can take you, in this case three topless men dancing to pumping house music, each as unsure as the next as to their cue to leave the stage.

Everything about Altitude Comedy Festival 2012 has transpired together to make an unforgettable week for comedy fans: sun, ski and a fine chortle. This isn't just the festival for the comedy connoisseur, but also the beginner and intermediate, being a well-rounded week of live shows but also a chance to take to some of the finest slopes in Austria, with 53 ski lifts to raise you to new heights and improve on the technique and the tan. Forget Edinburgh, Melbourne and Montreal, the one comedy festival you need in your calender is Altitude.

Review: Comedy Gala - Opening Night

Review: Comedy Gala - Night Two

Interview: Andi Osho

Interview: Milton Jones


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