Max Fine Freestyles Comedy And Life
By Matt Levy
Max Fine started doing stand up after he got drunk at a hip hop show in Atlanta and wound up performing for seven minutes. That’s perhaps the most pure comedy origin story ever. The story is delightfully simple. Max attended a local hip hop showcase produced by his friend and was brought onstage at the end. Fine predictably killed leaving the audience shocked it was his first time slinging jokes. There was a drop off though; he proceeded to tank for the next several months. It happens. These days, Fine’s comedy always captures that raw, spontaneous energy he had during that very first performance of his. He always tries to make sure that “Every standup show is an opportunity for the community to come together. No matter who you are, you’re in on the joke and celebrating how f*cking weird life is.” If one minute you’re enjoying a hip hop show and the next you’re onstage doing crowd work, that attitude makes perfect sense.
Fine, originally from Atlanta and now residing in Brooklyn, had an uncomfortably normal childhood that he said was “teased by manic depressive episodes.” His Jewish parents were supportive to a fault(!) and allowed their son to follow his creativity and rebellious nature wherever it took him. One of his earliest formative, anarchist experiences in the arts was one his parents merely tolerated: Max was proudly kicked out of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival when he was just 16. Max simply said, “My friend and I got too drunk and got caught.”
The adventures don’t stop there. Fine, who was pre-law with a completed degree in film before he proudly dropped out of college, gleefully told me he “Was once robbed on a walking trail near his house.” He added, “They took all of my stuff and left me with my driver’s license. One of the guys said to me, ‘I know how much of a pain in the ass it is to go to the DMV.’” Max lives for this kind of chaos and it makes for excellent fodder for him on the stage. Truth be told, Fine’s stories about his comedy career share the same charm. One of his greatest achievements as a comic was when he was booked as the opening act one night in Pascagoula, MS at a trucker bar and “didn’t get murdered.” Fine was slated to perform 25 minutes. Around five minutes in, an audience member started throwing beer bottles. This riled everyone in the crowd up. Fine said, “I don’t even know if they hated the jokes. They just threw bottles.”
This is not to say that Fine, a self described “Unfortunate leftist” is a poor comic. That is far from the truth. Selected as a participant for comedy festivals as varied as Laughing Skull, Arch City, Orlando Indie, and Limestone this year, his act plays well all over the United States. Influenced by Larry David, Miles Davis, Robin Williams, and Paul Thomas Anderson (in that order), you immediately see an acerbic and improvisatory style run rampant through his act. Fine regularly engages in jocular crowd work with audience members that he weaves into his sets that feel much more alive than your typical set up and punchline comic. When Fine is up there, an electric current runs through the room- anything can happen. It’s no surprise that Fine is a huge fan of boxing, jazz, and getting high before a movie starts (These are his hobbies. For real). All of the above are activities that support Max’s notion that controlled chaos is better than rigidity.
It all makes sense the more you learn about the guy. Fine is a man who has proudly been kicked off Twitter for screwing with the police and has the word “Poop” tattooed on his right buttctheek. Acid makes him happy. Punch Drunk Love, Blue Valentine, and Paris, Texas are his three favorite movies. He thinks The OA is the most interesting and beautiful TV show of all time. He does not know how to read. One of the most formative experiences of his life was seeing an exhibit in Montreal on Bruce Nauman. He didn’t realize visual art could move him before that. Fine is a trip in the best possible way. He’s the guy you just met a music festival that became your best friend and won’t stop texting you because you just became best friends. You don’t even mind. He brings a spark to your life you didn’t know you were missing.
These COVID-19 days, Fine is laying low at his Brooklyn apartment with his two cats Zenon and Philip “Philly” Cheesesteak. They are the “Only two things he values on the planet.” He’s spending his days with his roommate and fellow comic David Tveite watching sports documentaries; in fact, he just made him rewatch the 1995 World Series (Fine’s beloved Atlanta Braves came out victorious in that contest) twice. Most importantly, Max is currently finishing writing the first season of a TV show he’s hoping to self produce when the quarantine is over. He couldn’t do this alone though. Fine regularly collaborates with comedian friends Mike Szar and Dale Cheesman. Their writing group, “Boy Harem,” has shown Fine many different ways of looking at topics he didn’t see before. Fine said, “(It’s nice) having someone else approach a joke with a different story fork or a hole that I didn’t see before.” I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the release of this pilot.
In five years, Max hopes to see himself still alive. We all do too- we have no idea what Fine is going to bring to the stage next. Hopefully, it’s something as sublime as his first performance following a hip hop show. To that old rapper friend of Fine’s, you better invite him onstage.
One final Fine story and perhaps, my favorite:
Max was freshman class president before spending his grade’s entire budget on a dunk tank that no one used. He was not re-elected.