Altitude 2013

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Bruce Dessau

After a spell in Meribel and now three years in Mayerhofn in Austria the Altitude Festival has established itself as an appealing part of the increasingly crowded global comedy festival circuit.It might not be up your street - or up your ski-run – if you don't want to spend all day sliding down mountains, but it is hard to fault the apres-ski entertainment over five fun-packed evenings.

Actually you could fault it, but only by last year's impeccably high standards. 2012's line-up included crowd-pullers Tim Minchin, Kevin Bridges, Frankie Boyle, Milton Jones and Jimmy Carr. This year there were only two major names, but they were arguably even bigger ones. John Bishop arrived with 15 mates in tow and Eddie Izzard arrived in high-heel boots and glossy red nail varnish.

Izzard headlined the opening gala in the 550-seater Europhaus, after some very good support, making this much more than a Highlight Club gig on steroids. MC Andrew Maxwell donned his site-specific lederhosen

and explained that due to the effect of wearing chamois all day – and no pants – he was polished from the waist down. He also showed off his language skills, before discovering that there was only one German speaker in the audience – ‘so much for the local advertising’.

The full house of Brits loved opening act Marcus Brigstocke, who hit the ground running, or should that be sliding, with a series of old gags at the expense of snowboarders who spend their days pushing the snow off the mountains. The day’s blizzard conditions also gave him some good new lines about his own adventures on the slopes. ‘Llike Stevie Wonder getting a blow job – couldn't see shit, but it felt good.’ We wouldn't normally quote gags, but I can't imagine him doing this one in London, assuming that the UK's winter finally ends soon.

Brendon Burns had something new to talk about. He has just been diagnosed as 30 per cent deaf and has started to wear a discreet hearing aid in one ear. This meant that his set shuttled between the usual raging at the world and marvelling at the fact that he could finally hear his own voice coming through  the monitors. I suspect Burns will get some good material out of his condition and probably an Edinburgh show. Proof that in comedy nothing is ever wasted.

The second half opened with what could have been a corny visual gag but actually won the audience over immediately. Michael Mittermeier is a major star in his native Germany, but thanks to the support of Eddie Izzard is making inroads in English-speaking countries.  A lot of his schtick was about national differences – Brits and their queuing, politeness and using the phrase ‘Bob's your uncle’ – and hardly groundbreaking but Mittermeier is a clever, assured performer who makes you feel that you are in safe hands. He also has a good, clownish physicality and, like most Germans, speaks better English than most English people.

And so to the eagerly anticipated headliner. I've been slightly concerned about Eddie Izzard lately, afraid that he was so busy with so many other projects he had started to neglect his comedy muscles. He seemed a little unsettled at Russell Brand’s recent Comic Relief night and was not great when guesting at an impro gig just before this gala. But from the moment he strutted on he seemed to have found his form again, Maybe Izzard is so unique – and definitely unique among the mainstream crowd-pleasers at Altitude – that he really needs a headlining spot and plenty of time to shine.

His 40-minute set had a sprinkling of familiar material, but it was mostly a preview of his Force Majeure tour. Once again Izzard picked at his preferred themes of history and religion, with an added appeal to his fans to stay British but also embrace Europe: ‘The war is over. Learn another language.’ As many great philosophical minds have already done, he argued that God does not exist, and if he does he's a bit rubbish, but Izzard did it with more panache than most, jabbing a varnished fingernail in the air to emphasise his points.

Human sacrifice, Magna Carta, Richard The Lionheart and Charles I also came into the mix and there was a nice ego-deflating story about a recent cab trip from Wembley to Central London. As Izzard got out the taxi the driver asked if he was going back to Wembley. Izzard replied yes, and virtually reeled off his tour dates there, but what the cabbie meant was would he need a lift back there later. Proof, if ever it were needed, that comedians live in their own bubble.

Yet Izzard, with his long-term political ambitions, is clearly one who has plans to engage with the outside world. That will have to wait though. In the meantime Altitude suggests that he has got his stand-up mojo back.

  • Read Bruce Dessau's report on the rest of Altitude here.

Review date: 21 Mar 2013
Reviewed by: Bruce Dessau

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.