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Altitude Comedy Festival 2016 Review

Ho ho ho | Altitude Comedy Festival 2016 Review

The comedians of the Altitude Comedy Festival 2016
The comedians of the Altitude Comedy Festival 2016 – Photo: Altitude Comedy Festival

Altitude Comedy Festival sells itself as the funniest show on snow. But do comedy and arsing around on a slope mix well? We went to Mayrhofen in Austria to find out for ourselves.

Monday was the first day of the festival, and I excitedly threw back my hotel room curtains only to be greeted by grey skies. I was hoping it had dumped a metre of snow in the night, the cloud burning off to reveal perfect bluebird conditions. Whoever’s in charge of the weather didn’t get the memo though.

Now a decade old, Altitude Comedy Festival has been held in a number of locations, and at varying times of year, but this is the first time it’s been held just before Christmas. The early season start meant that, while there was a gentle buzz and bustle in the valley below, up on the mountain there was a serene quiet.

You could virtually have the entire piste to yourself at times - Photo: James Renhard / Mpora
You could virtually have the entire piste to yourself at times – Photo: James Renhard / Mpora

As such, the slopes of Mayrhofen were empty enough to, at times, have runs entirely to myself, which made hooning about on the piste, and looking for little bits of powder to play around in, a pleasure.

Mayrhofen makes for an excellent playground for a festival like Altitude as it has something for all levels of skier and snowboarder, whether you’re new to sliding around on snow and want to take things easy, or you’re a seasoned veteran wanting to hit the pro-line in one of the two world-class parks accessible in the resort.

There’s also a fun energy about the village, but one that never quite topples over into lairyness (unless you get drinking in the Scotland Arms pub with a bunch of stand-ups).

But Altitude is about more than just sliding in your chosen direction on snow. It really is a must-visit for any fan of stand up comedy. Hell, for anybody that enjoys laughing! While other festivals promise that there’s a chance you’ll bump into DJ Metal Detector or whoever on the slopes, I’ve never had it happen to me.

Mpora's James Renhard shares an intimate moment with British Olympic hero Eddy The eagle Edwards - Photo: James Rampton
Mpora’s James Renhard shares an intimate moment with British Olympic hero Eddy The eagle Edwards – Photo: James Rampton

However, at Altitude, it’s almost a case of avoiding the stars as they go about their day on and off the slopes. In one 24 hour period, I found myself sharing a lift with Jimeoin (no, we have no idea how to pronounce it either), accidentally stealing Zoe Lyons carrier bags in a supermarket, chatting tremendous amounts of shit with Andrew Maxwell, and ending up posing weirdly for photographs as I shared a honeymoon suite with legendary British Olympian Eddie The Eagle Edwards.

The International Improv All-Stars in full swing - Photo: Altitude Comedy Festival
The International Improv All-Stars in full swing – Photo: Altitude Comedy Festival

And that was all before the comedy had officially started. It wasn’t long before the first organised laughter of Altitude Festival came along. Although, “organised” may be a stretch for The International Improv All-Stars. Three regular improvisational comedians were joined on stage by Jimeoin for an hour of comedy that was completely unrehearsed. The set was gloriously chaotic, seemingly bordering on collapse on occasions. Jimeoin apparently had no real idea what was going on, but this proximity to peril made for an even more hilarious hour.

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By early evening seemingly all of the English speaking people in Mayrhofen descended on the Europahaus at the bottom of the town for an night of standup. Festival co-founder Andrew Maxwell was compare for the night, and set a riotous tone from the off. His brand of blunt-but-intelligent comedy had the audience erupting with laughter.

Europahaus is the Altitude Comedy HQ for the week in Mayrhofen
Europahaus is the Altitude Comedy HQ for the week in Mayrhofen

A stellar set from Mock The Week regular Zoe Lyons followed, as did a banger set from Jimoine, who’s comedy has to be seen to be believed as it’s virtually impossible to explain. He has the look of your slightly pissed uncle who you’ve bumped into in Wetherspoons, but just a raise of one of his eyebrows is somehow enough to have the room in stitches.

The night was closed by the standout act of the day: Abandoman. Straight from the off, it was clear this was a comedy set like nothing the audience could possibly have expected. Part rap battle, part comedy, their routine (Abandoman is joined by regular performer Sam Wilson) consists of getting in among the audience, and asking for suggestions of things to rap about. The speed at which the Abandoman can think of rhyming couplets is astounding and his telepathy with Wilson is just perverse.

Jimeoin sings to the audience in the Europahause at Altitude 2016 - Photo: Altitude
Jimeoin sings to the audience in the Europahause at Altitude 2016 – Photo: Altitude

Abandoman’s set was later perfectly described by compare Maxwell as being the work of Voodoo. The laughs are fast furious, and completely mesmerising. I’ve never been to a comedy gig that’s on the verge of turning into a rave before, but Abandon managed to whip up an atmosphere that any Wembley headliner would have pant-accidents over.

Whether you’re a die-hard comedy fan (assuming such a thing exists) or simply somebody that enjoys being amused and is partial to arsing about on snow, Altitude Comedy Festival is definitely worth marking on your calendar for 2017. It has a warm, gentle charm about it, and you get the impression that the people performing are equally as happy to be among the mountains as the audience paying to be there. The only thing we’d change, aside from the weather, is that next time we’d stay for the entire week, to make the most of the comedy talent in town.

Altitude runs in Mayhofen until Friday 16th December. For more on the festival, tickets, and who’s appearing, see the Altitude Comedy Festival website.

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