Words by James Renhard | Main image by Altitude Comedy Festival
“He’s a mountain warrior, you know. He grabs me by the lederhosen, drags me onto all fours, and starts milking me like a cow, using the Lederhosen as udders. And he’s yodelling! The crew are just losing their minds with the sheer weirdness of it. And he’s carrying on like this is exactly what he’s been hired to do. Drag a man to his knees and then milk him like a cow.”
This isn’t a pharmaceutically-enhanced, nightmarish vision endured by Hunter S. Thompson. This is just a regular day in the life of Andrew Maxwell, one of the three men behind the Altitude Comedy Festival.
I’m sure Michael Eavis doesn’t have to put up with this.
Altitude Comedy Festival is an annual gathering of some of the world’s best comedians who perform a week of live shows in Mayrhofen, Austria.
When I first heard of Altitude, which is now a decade old,I was immediately struck by two conflicting thoughts; firstly, mixing a week of skiing and snowboarding with a week of comedy seems like an incredible idea. Something so obvious I’m genuinely amazed that there aren’t more festivals of its kind in the same way there are now a thousand mainstream music festivals.
“A lot of the comedians who come out, do it because it rekindles the fun.”
And yet, on the other hand, I wasn’t sure the two elements really mix. Sure, they’re not mutually exclusive, but there seems to be little cross-over when comparing the demographic of a comedy gig and that found in a ski town.
Given skiing and snowboarding are such euphoric things to do – hell, just being in the mountains can be an ecstatic experience – I began to wonder if a week of comedy would add to, or detract from it. Can you make people any happier than when they’re in the hills?
I headed to Austria to meet Andrew Maxwell, and find out.