A growing army of Scandinavian comics are promising to conquer Scotland this Festival, writes Jay Richardson

D ecent weather, proper coffee, the joys of education, enlightenment and engaging with your fellow human being. Just some of the benei ts of spending time away from the UK. But what’s the point of learning another language now that so many i ne foreign comedians perform in English? Cliché or not, travel broadens the mind. And rewires it. A growing number of comics are rei ning their acts beyond their native borders, and none more so than those from Scandinavia.

Their ambition to improve themselves as performers is inextricably tied to the challenge of communicating in another tongue. Put simply, you can’t be hack if you don’t know lazy British conventions and couldn’t reproduce them if you tried. Daniel Simonsen certainly never knew of deadpan until he arrived in this country and critics struggled to describe his style. As a description, ‘awkward’ barely

does justice to the Norwegian’s dry but rhythmically unpredictable, oddly compelling delivery, which he chiel y ascribes to the fear of performing in English, having to talk ‘a bit slower . . . and maybe also holding back a little’. Either way, it suits him. Growing up poor in Bergen on Norway’s west coast, he always felt ‘a little bit different than the other kids’. Although facially expressive, a legacy, perhaps, of his study at the Philippe Gaulier clown school in Paris, the outsider’s role is ‘natural’ to him and ‘something I wanted to keep’. In Norway, he was a storyteller. But lacking a shared cultural history with UK audiences, he became an off-kilter observational comic, with a sizeable chunk of his material focusing on social gaucheness, communication difi culties and comedians’ mannerisms, invariably from a unique perspective.

2–9 Aug 2012 THE LIST 15