Max Olesker’s persistence earned him a top job at a respected men’s magazine and his determination during his teenage years ensured he became the youngest (and smallest) pro-wrestler.
As the handsome, taller half of double act Max and Ivan, the comic has kept himself busy outside of TV comedy shows such as Comedy Blap The Reunion by dipping his toes into other Herculean projects like running a comedy school. Max tells Susie Daniels about his comedy background, his short-lived wrestling career and why anything you read about his bulging biceps, six pack and a Ferrari sports car is true…
You were the youngest teenage pro wrestler. How did that come about and what did your parents think of it?
Both of my parents have had artistic and Bohemian lifestyles so they were fine. They encouraged us to do what we wanted. My dad was a lecturer and writer and my mum an artist. The wrestling came about because it ticked all of the boxes.
It’s incredibly theatrical and informative and it encompassed everything I loved about performance like Jackie Chan action movies. When I was 14 years old a wrestling school opened up nearby. I was the smallest by a long shot when I joined. I absolutely loved it. I was flying, ducking and diving!
Max Voltage, the Human Dynamo was your moniker. If you could give yourself a wrestling name now based on how fit you feel or where you’re at, what would it be?
Tell me about Commitment, your tour show.
It is the true story of a very elaborate stag weekend when Ivan got married last year. I reunited his art rock post-funk punk student band Voodoo: 7:2. The band name is completely and utterly meaningless.
How did you and Ivan get together?
I went to university and met Ivan while he was still in his band at Royal Holloway (London University). I was never in the band. I studied drama and creative writing and Ivan studied drama. We were both performing in a student play.
Royal Holloway had absolute zero comedic tuition of any kind but there were lots of motivated, engaged and switched on students. We went to the Edinburgh Fringe and whilst we were there discovered a world of addictive creativity. We started blagging stand up gigs.
You co-founded with Graham Dickson The Free Association described as ‘London’s premier improv school’. Was that just to make wads of cash? Has that churned out any comedians we’ve heard of?
(laughs) Well I can promise you it wasn’t financially motivated in the slightest. We had the desire to set up an improv team. Graham took up the reigns when it became a school. I’m amazingly proud of it. 100%! Phil Wang, Olga Alison and Joe Morpurgo have all gone to it. There are lots of classes and lessons.
Does being a contributing editor at Esquire mean you have free rein to spread rumours about yourself and boost your portfolio?
Absolutely!…he said as he got out of his private jet, flexed his 5 inch muscles and drove off in the Ferrari to his Las Vegas residency.
How did you get the job at Esquire?
After I graduated I wrote in and did an afternoon internship. I refused to leave and stuck around as long as I could. Thankfully someone dropped out of the role and I got it.
What would Max be without Ivan? Richer? Funnier? Alone?
All three! It’s a huge existential questions like ‘Is there a God?’ He’s the totality of the comedy. Everything I have created has been with Ivan. Does Max exist without Ivan? Does Ivan exist without Max? (laughs)
I write magazine pieces and hosted a comedy-meets-karaoke night with Olga Coch. Ivan found out and had some choice things to say on Facebook!
Are your shows usually biographical?
Our shows have previously involved far more fantasy than exposing our real selves. It’s been a natural progression telling more personal stories. It’s different to stand-ups being confessional. Things in our real lives have felt interesting enough to share.
You mentioned before that most of the great Jewish comedians like the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen were influences. Do you think all these comedians are linked to a bygone era in film?
It’s unquestionably a bygone era. They all made different types of comedy. Everything’s cyclical informed by the flavour of modern comedy because lots of it’s brilliant and would feel appallingly dated. Growing up I was enamoured by all three. I was also a huge fan of Ali G when I first started. I was extremely influenced by the meticulousness of The League of Gentlemen script.
Since you last wrote about spornosexuality, pansexual has become popular with artists like Joe Lycett, Bella Thorne, Miley Cyrus, Amber Heard, Sia, Kesha. Is there a new sexuality yet we don’t know about that you would like to explore and name. eg Oleskuality?
I am genuinely terrified to announce a new form of sexuality. Spornosexuality was invented by journalist and broadcaster Mark Simpson – who coined the term ‘metrosexual’ – about the obsession of lads getting into the state of being so toned and muscly. Olesksexuality is the state of being overtired and grumpy which is how I felt because I hadn’t eaten carbs in three months covering spornosexuality!
Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done incredibly well with awards in the comedy world this year. Is that ever a hope of yours and have you won any awards?
I don’t think most comedians are motivated by awards. Comedian Stuart Lee watched Daniel Kitson perform comedy and said, ‘it was so good it made me want to quit’. It raised the bar.
What’s new with Max?
I’ve just released a scripted audio eight episode geopolitical comedy thriller called Max & Ivan: Fugitives which we write and star in. It’s out in November.
What’s the most important thing to remember in comedy?
Max & Ivan: Fugitives is out this month. Max & Ivan play Glasgow’s Stand Comedy Club on 9th Feb.