Fawlty Towers, ‘glorious’ Bristol and going viral – meet Bears prop Max Lahiff

Ed Elliot, PA
·5-min read

Social media sensation Max Lahiff says his eccentric interviews provide an escape from the “toxic masculinity” of professional rugby and warned he has plenty more in the tank.

The light-hearted Bristol prop has proved a major online hit, with an unconventional discussion ahead of the recent Gallagher Premiership clash with Wasps gaining 2.4million views on Twitter.

During a bizarre couple of minutes in front of the camera, Lahiff entertainingly dubbed rugby a “macabre sport of gladiatorial confrontation”, while referring to the opposition as “canny foxes”.

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The 31-year-old admits to being surprised by the popularity of the viral video but feels its offbeat content only registered “about a four out of 10 on the old Max scale”.

“It’s been quite novel, somewhat overwhelming,” Lahiff said of the response to the interview, which began with him pushing his head into a post protector while stretching his recently-injured calf muscles.

“When it (the popularity) started, I was like, ‘what’s going on here?’, it was just ticking over. I was like, ‘this is mental’.

“Everyone’s just going nuts for it and that was about a four out of 10 on the old Max scale; could have got a bit stranger.

“It’s been nice to resonate with people and connect and just being a little eccentric in myself.

“When you’re in an environment where there are a lot of big personalities and toxic masculinity – if you want to call it that – you could end up conforming quite easily.

“I love trying to articulate the great game in a more visceral way than what’s usual.”

Asked what 10 out of 10 on the scale would look like, he replied: “I don’t know if you’re ready for it!”

Lahiff clearly does not take himself too seriously.

Speaking in front of a wall of books which have evidently broadened his extensive vocabulary, he constantly smiles and laughs, while stroking a pet dog and displaying his sizeable frame in a black vest.

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The former London Irish and Bath player, who has also had spells in Australia and New Zealand, admits he enjoys performing and needs no invitation to “turn the theatrics on”.

“As I’ve got older, I have just become a lot more comfortable in myself as an individual so I have found that sharing that has seemed to go down quite well with people for the most part,” he said. “I am just a lot more comfy.

“Being in rugby for most of your life doesn’t add a lot from school.

“If you ask me my opinion on something, I will give it to you in the best kind of way, as honest as I can be and I will try and turn the theatrics on. I do enjoy performing.

“To come to a club where you can truly be yourself is just brilliant, quite liberating.”

Max Lahiff's interview style has been likened to Ross Kemp's performance in the comedy show Extras
Max Lahiff’s interview style has been likened to Ross Kemp’s performance in the comedy show Extras (Ian West)

His recent headline-grabbing performance for Bristol’s club media channel has drawn comparisons with a host of comedy characters, including elements of David Brent, Alan Partridge and Peep Show’s Alan Johnson.

When it is suggested that it was reminiscent of Ross Kemp parodying himself in the Ricky Gervais show Extras, Lahiff wastes little time in dipping into his repertoire.

“Super Army Soldiers – yeah I have seen that,” he said, quoting arguably Kemp’s most memorable line.

“Extras is brilliant. Ross Kemp was so good in that one. I do like that brand of humour as well, he’s a bit of a genius Ricky Gervais.”

Speaking about his comedic inspiration, he continued: “I have always enjoyed Fawlty Towers and Blackadder – I was brought up on that and I really enjoy that.

Max Lahiff began his career at London Irish
Max Lahiff began his career at London Irish (David Davies/PA)

“And I got into guys like Brian Blessed and Oliver Reed, those kind of old-school West End actors.

“They’ve always had a good brand of comedy. It’s not entirely witty, it’s just them being themselves.”

It has been a memorable season to date for Bristol.

Pat Lam’s European Challenge Cup holders sit seven points clear of reigning champions Exeter at the top of the Premiership ahead of this weekend’s visit of Harlequins.

Lahiff has missed a chunk of the campaign due to his lower leg muscle problems – which allowed him a welcome opportunity in the commentary box – but is loving life at Ashton Gate under director of rugby Lam.

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“For myself, it’s been a bit of a spluttering, stuttering start but finally back and playing some good rugby,” he said.

“My calves blew out, the tyres just weren’t quite there but I’ve got them back and I feel really good. I feel awesome. It’s really, really fun to be a component of this massive machine going forward.

“Bristol’s just glorious; the facility, the people, Pat Lam is just great – if slightly maniacal at times! I love the whole lot. There’s this really fun, eclectic vibe to it.

“Pat loves characters so as long as you are about job then you can always be yourself and the culture is incredibly cohesive while being that eclectic pool of people. It’s been truly brilliant.”

Asked whether a future commentary career would be of interest, Lahiff replied: “That would certainly be a pathway I would be looking at outside of rugby.”