FAULT Focus: interview with comedians Max & Ivan

From humble beginnings in their university drama society, Max & Ivan have risen through the comedy ranks to become regular fixtures at the Edinburgh Fringe and earned themselves an impressive smattering of awards and nominations, including the 2011 Edinburgh Comedy Award Panel Prize and Barry Award nomination at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival.

FAULT caught up with Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez to talk about their new show, on-stage mishaps and playing Pogs.

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FAULT: Hello! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. So, first things first, how did you meet?

Max: We both studied at the same university and discovered a shared love of comedy…

Ivan: And of each other!

M: Yes, and of each other! Ivan did some solo character comedy which I was impressed by, then when I was off touring around Italy as a wrestler…

I: Max used to be Britain’s youngest professional wrestler. Max Olesker, the human dynamo.

M: As we all were, at one point! Anyway, during that time I wrote some things that would work with both Ivan’s character and my own, so I roped myself in that way.

I: I had a gig lined up and I had no idea what to perform, so Max was like a blessing sent from…well, the halls next door.

 

After university, you found yourselves working your day jobs as well as performing stand up – how did that work out?

M: It was quite a stretch but we both really enjoyed our jobs [Max is a former staff writer for Esquire Magazine, to which he still contributes, while Ivan worked in game design]. But we were also very lucky in that they were supportive of letting us pursue our dreams as long as it didn’t infringe on our workload.

I: We only stopped when we got the call to go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, as we knew we couldn’t work that around our jobs.

M: So we bade…bidded…bud…them farewell. Bade? Is that the word?

I: Bathed. We bathed each other, ceremonially.

M: And that’s when we got sacked! Anyway…we began working on our next show [The Reunion] while we were in Melbourne, and took it to the Edinburgh Fringe when we got back.

 

So now the Fringe is over, what’s next?

I: We’ve just joined the Soho Six, which is very exciting. It’s basically six artists-in-residence at the Soho Theatre who are commissioned to write and perform material there. We’re working on the beginnings of a play at the moment.

 

Where do you draw inspiration for your sketches?

M: Our favourite thing to do is tell a story, so we tend to write narrative pieces. In fact, the idea from The Reunion came about from a string of Facebook messages I received from old school friends trying to organise a reunion. Seeing the names of old classmates and finding out what they do now is always interesting.

I: Yeah, everyone’s got a story about a crazy classmate, or the teacher who got arrested for possession of heroin…

M: Allegedly! Most, if not all, of the characters in the show are based on real people, so if you went to school with me, don’t come and watch it! (laughs)

WEB The Reunion 3 - Credit Dan Burn-Forti
Photos by Dan Burn-Forti

Are there subjects you feel are too controversial to joke about?

I: We probably wouldn’t avoid something because it’s controversial. It’s more likely to be because we think it’s been done.

M: Yeah, that’s right. I fiercely advocate the freedom of comedians to tackle any subject. If it’s done well, then it’ll work – it’s all about the quality of the writing. Some of best comedians, like George Carlin and Bill Hicks, have tackled very contentious subjects, but for us it would have to be within the context of our story. I think shock-value humour, by its very nature, only works so many times but if there was a valid reason for including something [contentious] in our show, then yeah, I’d be happy to do it.

 

You featured in BBC3’s Badults recently, tell us a bit about that.

I: Yeah, our pals Pappy’s [a comedy trio consisting of Tom Parry, Matthew Crosby and Ben Clark] put us in that as an assortment of inanimate objects, like matchsticks, talking carrots, Pogs…

M: Yeah! I played a Pog. And not just any Pog, a silver shiny one! They’ve just had a second series commissioned, actually. Boys, if you’re reading this, put us in!

 

What’s your FAULT?

I: Collectively? That’s probably me!

M: Yeah. Definitely him.

 

Max & Ivan will be performing The Reunion, directed by Pappy’s Tom Parry, at the Soho Theatre from 7th-12th October. For more information, visit maxandivan.com

Words by Thea de Gallier