My Edinburgh: Max Olesker on wrestling comedians at The Fringe (and not plugging his new show at all)


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The Independent Culture

If I were a truly canny businessman I might be tempted to use these precious column inches to plug the show I am performing in all month (Max and Ivan: The Reunion, 8.20pm, Queen Dome – a heart-warming, hilarious and poignant tale of the class of 2003’s 10 year school reunion, directed by sketch maestro Tom Parry of Pappy’s) but instead, I am here to talk about The Wrestling. Or rather, The Wrestling II.

It happened before, you see, the Fringe before last, and it was a chaotic whirlwind of punchlines, clotheslines and broken bones (my ankle, irritatingly), and it won a Foster’s Comedy Award. Like most teenagers, I toured around the UK as a professional wrestler from the age of 15, and only stopped when comedy took over. The madness of Edinburgh and the madness of wrestling seemed uniquely suited, so we taught some comedians to wrestle and let them have at it.

This time round it’s going to be bigger and better; Ardal O’Hanlon is stepping up as Team Captain of the good guys, whilst Tim Vine (as Dr. Pun Ishment) is Captain of the villains. We’ve also had far longer to prepare our comics – Angelos Epithemiou has shocked us with his athleticism, and Thom Tuck’s transformation into Thom ‘Powerplay’ Tuck, a callous South African cricketer, has been nothing short of staggering. This time round my main (and very fervent) hope is that no-one breaks anything. If one-tenth of what we’ve got planned actually comes off, then it’s going to be glorious.

The Edinburgh Fringe is an incredible monstrosity – a reality-distorting bubble that can transform reasonable men and women into gibbering wrecks – so the most important thing to remember is that none of it should be taken remotely seriously. Write a show you believe in, perform it to the best of your ability, and try not to be the last person remaining in Brooke’s Bar when it closes. That’s essentially all there is to it. Oh – and be nice to your flyerers, if you’re fortunate enough to have people flyering for you. They are the unsung heroes of Edinburgh.

It’s also fairly easy to let one’s physical condition deteriorate alarmingly during the month of August. The ubiquity of establishments selling alcohol and deep-fried food (and often both) coupled with erratic working hours means that I’ve frequently returned to London in September a bloated, dead-eyed wax-skinned mess. This month, though, I’ve taken precautionary steps to avoid that sad fate. Given my impending wrestling duties, I’ve joined the gym next door to The Pleasance. It turns out to be the best-equipped gym in the known universe – it contains at least five actual ‘gyms’ within it, at least two of which I’m not allowed to use, seemingly because I’m not a member of the relevant fitness-related secret society (The Free-Weight Masons?). It also has a climbing wall and archery range - two disciplines which I’ve really been letting slide, recently.

Ultimately, surviving the Edinburgh Fringe comes down to hard work, camaraderie, and certain unshakeable wide-eyed optimism. By sheer chance, these are all themes explored in the show I’m performing in throughout the month (Max and Ivan: The Reunion, 8.20pm, Queen Dome), a show that, if it were the subject of this column, I’d highly advise you come and watch. Especially as The Wrestling II is now sold-out.

'The Wrestling II', Pleasance Courtyard, 13th August// 'Max and Ivan: The Reunion', Pleasance Dome, until 25th August (not 13th)

Max Olesker's must-sees:

David O’Doherty, who is Irish and has a beard. Claudia O’Doherty, who isn’t, and doesn’t. Bo Burnham, who blew me away in 2010 and is back with his second hour at the veteran age of 22. And Nick Helm, who shaved his beard even though I asked him not to.