Altitude 2012: 30th March

On Friday I got up late. Had breakfast and Tina joined me. Then I went up the mountain. It was grey and chilly down in the town, which it hadn’t been all week. The ride up was fun – I was hanging in a small yellow box in a cloud. I could see nothing. Not even the gondola in front of me and when I got to the top, nothing. No view. Couldn’t even see across the runway. It was an absolute whiteout. Still there are skiers and snowboarders out. I think they’re mad. Helen had four days’ lessons as did we but she started a day later, so she had her fourth on Friday. I’m very glad I could only be bothered with four because I don’t think learning to snowboard in a whiteout would be much fun.

I spent the afternoon not doing much because I was almost dead from tiredness after a long week.

In the evening, it was the Closing Gala. According to the programme, it began at 7pm. Doors traditionally have opened an hour before and I wanted to drop off my lift pass and get some chocolate on the way. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up the pass and buying two bars of noisette Milka didn’t take long. I was hanging around for over an hour before we were allowed in.

I grabbed a table right up the front and sat in the third seat, along with Danz and Lauren and Tina and a handful of other they’d met and befriended. We whiled away the time eating chocolate and playing cards and finally, at 8.30, it began.

It was a great gala. Maxwell MCd, in a pair of too-big lederhosen over his last clean shirt. In my experience, lederhosen are supposed to be quite tight around the legs and finish at the knee. Maxwell’s were a bit baggy, the straps were too loose and they finished around his ankles.

First up was Matt Reed, who I’d seen at one of the late shows. I like him. Next, Andi Osho. I like her too. Craig Campbell. Rufus Hound came back, and in a first for “episodic comedy”, carried on where he left off the night before, complete with “Previously at the Altitude Festival…”. Phill Jupitus, who is delightfully solemn and don’t careish. Then Michael Winslow, maker of noises, was due on. Chaz, the techie, who had become a star in his own right by the end of the week, came out with various bits and pieces, furniture appeared and disappeared and Ed Byrne and Rufus Hound both began prancing around on the stage, pretending to be professional stage hands, carrying chairs and stools and moving the flowers around. Michael Winslow started off ok, with some new stuff. He’s learnt a new noise in the last week – the noise of the Ahorn cablecar. But then he just went into the stuff he did on Monday. He obviously enjoyed himself hugely but I think some of the audience were disappointed.

Then it was time for the third and final part of the Closing Gala, with the headline acts. Milton Jones. Milton apparently has a talent and thirst for mocking the other comedians. He started off with “I’m Milton Jones and I make noises” before making a noise – I forget what noise. He did some jokes, then delighted the audience by going back to the Terry Alderton Gollum/Smeagol routine from the other night. He is brilliant. I love Milton, everyone loves Milton, he was Cherry’s favourite and judging by the cackling up in the balcony, someone up there loves him too.

Ed was next. He did the snowboarding routine at last and talked about having fallen over skiing today. Did I mention it was a whiteout? Well, apparently it was such a whiteout it was disorienting and he genuinely couldn’t tell whether or not he was moving. He came down the slope, stopped, didn’t know he’d stopped, tried to brake and toppled over. He talked about sleep and snoring and shopping.

Frankie Boyle next. I liked him more than I had the first time. Maxwell had explained that it was all the same people and he’d realised he’d have to find some different jokes. He specifically said jokes. And yes, he tried to be offensive at times, but on the whole he spent more time actually being funny this time than trying to live up to his own hype and I found myself warming to him more than I’d expected to.

Last up was Abandoman. Cherry and Simon hadn’t been at the previous show and hadn’t seen them before. They did What’s In Your Pocket and then they did their usual ballad of two strangers and they deliberately picked Lauren, who had broken her hand falling off the draglift on the practice slope. They pulled her on stage and one of our boys as well, Sid, and they pretended they didn’t know each other.

And it finished up with Chaz giving a speech, much to the delight of his newly-acquired fans and Abandoman improvising a rap featuring all the comedians, some of whom appeared on stage to dance around at mention of their names.

Then it was time for the final late show. It was anarchy. Absolute anarchy. We were in the downstairs room, the conference room. Maxwell had threatened to MC it topless under his lederhosen and when he turned up in a t-shirt, he got chanted at until he removed it. That set the tone for the night. First people in the audience demonstrated various skills – a man who’d initially claimed to sell storage shelves for IBM was outed as an airshow commentator and got pulled out to demonstrate. The man who’d done the bluebottle joke and then when taken on stage to be apologised to did a cuckoo clock dance with Maxwell, which I’d forgotten about, got hauled up again. The fifteen-year-old who’d danced with Terry Alderton got pointed out. Various faces they’d met over the week got pointed out, it was like all these people were friends. Apparently there were 500 people there – Maxwell kept saying it was like a new challenge TV show – “18 comedians entertain 500 people three times a day for five days!” (although I’ve counted 29 comedians, so who knows how accurate the 500 is) and he also said it was like the world’s first landlocked cruise – but the hardcore who turned up to every late show couldn’t have been more than fifty and some were becoming celebrities in their own right.

It was communal comedy. Maxwell started the bottle song, we all joined in, we all yelled “What do you do with blue bottles?” at the end and we all yelled the punchline, which is of course “You swat them!!!”

Finally, we had the first “sacrificial victim” at this impromptu Fullmooners show, in which we howled at things we liked. There was a little door at the back of the stage, leading to the dressing room and every act started with “Who’s in the clown hole?” yelled by the entire audience, followed by “Is the clown clad?!” Tiernan Douieb was first, shirtless. Matt Reed, with a broken rib, was next. He was more reluctant to remove his shirt and spent a lot of time trying to drape it over his shoulder, from where it invariable slid off within three seconds. Craig Campbell was next. Not topless but trouserless. Then Benny Boot, in nothing but his pants. And finally, Abandoman. One with an open shirt on, the other topless and both decorated with ducktape. They did What’s In Your Pocket again and then a song I hadn’t heard before, Revolution. We thought it was the end. It wasn’t the end.

They brought a special unexpected guest onto the stage to play Brendon Burns’ game – the one where a comedian does a short routine and they rap about it. The special unexpected guest was Ed Byrne. And in the spirit of nakedness, Ed came out wearing nothing but a short coat which only just covered enough. He was quite happy to turn around and raise his arms to demonstrate that he really wasn’t wearing anything under the coat and to deliberately drop the mic, turn his back on us and bend to pick it up but despite the audience’s yells, he refused to actually open or take off the coat.

He did the mum-mum-mum routine, then stepped back to let Abandoman go at it. He wanted to go backstage but they got him into one of the armchairs (which Maxwell had brought on stage “to make it look more like daytime TV”, with no real idea what he intended to do with them) standing carefully in front of him and then providing coats, papers and various covering things to hold onto while he sat there.

Abandoman did the routine, the show ended. We didn’t leave. We all had a big group hug with Benny Boot, security started suggesting we should go outside, went around waking the unconscious people. I grabbed Benny’s arm as he passed and asked if he knew if Ed was still inside. I was expecting something along the lines of “I think so, he’ll probably be out in a minute”. Instead I got towed backstage and Benny hunted him down for me. I don’t think he knew quite how to explain who I was or why I was there but Ed just said “It’s ok, we already know each other” and he wandered off. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then we left because he was getting picked up for his flight in three hours. In my mind, Ed is a tiny little thing and his height takes me by surprise every single time I see him.

The girls were still waiting outside. I never did get quite who they were waiting for but whoever it was seemed to be waiting for Paul Byrne who was waiting for the rest of the comedians so we could all go to the Arena together. I was quite happy to hover. I walked up to the Strass with Ed and Andi Osho and half of Abandoman and the other girls fell behind with Benny Boot. When we got to the Arena, Tina was waiting and when she saw that the other girls weren’t with me, she panicked. I suggested we walk back down and meet up with them but in her panic, she sprinted. The others were fine. They were with Benny, who greeted me by my surname, much to the girls’ confusion, because of course, they haven’t been using it and hadn’t never even heard it. (He had been introduced to me by my full name by one of the organisers. I don’t know how she knew my name – she had checked me in on Sunday but she must have met hundreds of us)

We went back to the Strass. I didn’t desperately want to go in to the Arena but the girls were going, I still didn’t want to walk back alone so I followed meekly. I soon changed my mind. It was noisy and hot and it was very smoky and they were playing music I’ve only ever heard at slacklining. I said goodbye to the girls, thanked them for adopting me for the week and walked back on my own. No problem.

The only problem was getting back at 4 in the morning and being unable to switch the light on. It seemed there was a power cut. Having been using the Europahaus’s free wifi during the intervals, my phone was desperately low on battery and I couldn’t charge it. I had to get ready for bed by the light of a headtorch which I’d been carrying around all week, which saved me the effort of digging it out of a suitcase. Then, after the night I’d had, I couldn’t sleep so I sat with my netbook, which has a brilliant battery life, writing up the entire week until 5.30 in the morning when I finally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

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