Max & Ivan: Life, Choices | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Max & Ivan: Life, Choices

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Max and Ivan have always put some of their own lives into their Fringe shows, and never more successfully than in 2019’s powerhouse show, Commitment. Now, in its follow-up, their relationship comes under even more scrutiny as the pair look back at the 16 years since they met in a shit pub and decided to form a double act.

Working with your pal and making comedy together sounds like a dream. but as Max, points out, it might not be entirely healthy to ‘monetise both your hobby and your friendship’. And maybe the differences between their personalities, so crucial for a winning double-act dynamic, can cause some frictions in real life.

They plot their personalities on two axes, measuring how cautious their approaches to life and how determined they are to make things happen. Max is active-safe, down to the point of planning every moment of his Thai holiday. Ivan is passive-reckless, just letting chaos happen around him. 

That is not the most productive personality type when it comes to writing a show and when Ivan failed to pull his weight. ‘Max scheduled an argument,’ he notes – and shows the Google Calendar invite to prove it as part of the slick PowerPoint that illustrates the show.

What this incident - and indeed the entire show – exposes is how things have been changing over the years. They are no longer carefree, young men with no commitments just mucking about at will, but two grown men trying to maintain a career in the precarious world of comedy. Their ITV2 Wrestling sitcom Deep Heat looked like a plank of stability, but was that enough?

Things came even sharper into focus when, despite being woefully ill-equipped for fatherhood, Ivan welcomed a new son, Javier, another distraction from the work he was supposed to be doing. The event prompted both comedians to take a look at both their fathers through new eyes – and as we meet them on video here, both turn out to be eccentrics in their own way.

Max’s fastidious ambition is in contrast to his flaky puppeteer dad, while Ivan’s laissez-faire attitude is the opposite of his wheeler-dealer father, getting involved in enough dubious schemes – and occasionally getting caught - to fill a show of his own.

Life, Choices is not as densely packed with layered gags as some of their previous work but does come with a lot of heart. The chemistry and dynamic between the pair is palpable, and Ivan playing the know-nothing fool is always a delight, as Max throws him the sideways glance of a tolerant but frustrated parent.

They know how to structure a show, these two, and as they learn a bit from each other – more in one direction than the other – and examine the nature of their bromance, the show builds to an impressive climax. And leaves an intriguing ‘will they / won’t they’ question dangling as to their future.

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Review date: 20 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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