FRONT SCANDINAVIAN COMEDY
He can rely on occasional titters from his pronunciation of words like ‘walkie-talkie’ but he’s had to work harder than most new acts, not least after winning So You Think You’re Funny in 2008. Despite that award’s prestige, prize money, additional bookings and the cushion it gave him to ditch a series of dead-end jobs (‘I was working myself to death just trying to survive’), the pressure on him to turn a good i ve-minute routine into a solid 20 had increased. And now, i nally, doing a full hour, he can no longer rely on his crap jobs for material: ‘It’s always good for comedy when your life sucks,’ he enthuses, l atly.
It was toiling in a menial if rewarding period of employment, watching British comics while stacking chairs at the Le Java club in Paris, that Simonsen was advised by Stewart Lee that the UK, and London especially, was a Mecca for stand-up. If he was serious about becoming a comic, then this was the place to come. Yet for invading Scandinavians – of which Simonsen is among the most committed – the dense concentration of gigs, abundant stage time and inspiration of London and Edinburgh have made it seem more like Valhalla and Fólkvangr for those brave souls suffocating on an over-subscribed open mic circuit.
Magnus Betnér scooped a clutch of four- star reviews for his 2010 Edinburgh debut, and is the i rst of his compatriots to win the ‘Swedish comedian of the year’ award a second time. He believes he achieved that fate specii cally for being ‘on the right road to be great in the United Kingdom’, and is aware that ‘the others think it’s a really good thing and a lot of them are now trying to do the same thing after me’.
This Festival, Edinburgh hosts several including Scandic stand-up showcases, Norwegians of Comedy at the GHQ venue, featuring Martin Beyer Olsen, Lars Berrum and Adam Tumidajewicz, pledging to be, ‘free and funnier than the last time Norwegians invaded Scotland’. There’s also the intriguingly named The Dirty Uncle Comedy Roadshow at the Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, featuring Swedish comic Tomas Ahlbeck and friends. Perhaps all this belies Betnér’s assertion that Brits are disproportionately obsessed with grim Scandinavian crime i ction: ‘I suppose it’s interesting to people who are not from Sweden to see the darker side of a society that some think is just perfect.’ Performing more shows in the English language than in Swedish this year, Betnér’s burgeoning career in the UK and elsewhere with speakers of our amorphous, mongrel dialect, has yet to challenge his conviction that as a clinical social commentator, he conceives his best material depressed. ‘At the moment, I have considerably more topical, political stuff because I haven’t had time to do anything fun recently.’
In his homeland, he develops routines on stage. But in English, while he’s increasingly comfortable ad-libbing, it’s not enough for him to simply tease ideas out on the road. For the i rst time in years, he’s hammering away at a computer. ‘That’s how I started out, like everybody else. I’ve had to start over and do everything from the
16 THE LIST 2–9 Aug 2012
UNIVERSAL HUMOUR The Scandinavians are joined by a comedy league of nations at the Fringe
NAZ OSMANOGLU Given the damp evidence of his debut solo affair last year (he’s also a core member of the WitTank crew), this Turkish prince will provide an energetic sweat-fest like no other. This year,
he’s an Ottoman Without an Empire. You getting the show’s v vibe yet? Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, 4–26 Aug (not 14), 8pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7–£8). Previews until 3 Aug, £6.
TREVOR NOAH Eddie Izzard is ‘presenting’ this new South African act, whose show is courageously entitled The Racist. In it Noah will be discussing the serious growing pains of being brought up
in a post-apartheid country. Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6 6550, 4–27 Aug (not 13), 7.15pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9). Previews until 3 Aug, £5.
MICHAEL MITTERMEIER This chap is a German on Safari and also comes with the heavyweight approval of everyone’s favourite cross-dressing multi-marathon runner and would-be MEP. As well as renowned comedy critic Bono. Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 4–27 Aug ( (not 13, 20), 9.30pm, £9–£10
(£8–£9). Previews until 3 Aug, £5.
A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE WITH IMAAN Possibly the i rst Lebanese-Aussie to tread the Fringe boards, the identity which he analyses here is the one from a short person’s angle via a mix of stand-up and hidden
camera antics. Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, 4-27 Aug 14), midnight, £9–£10 (£8–£9). ( (not Previews until 3 Aug, £5.
MARCEL LUCONT There are some who suggest that Monsieur Lucont is not a bona i de Frenchman but we can only shrug our shoulders with contempt at that notion. Our cheeky
Gallic hero is fast becoming a Fringe fave de rigueur. U Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, 4-26 Aug (not 14), 10.25pm, £9.50– £10.50 (£8.50-£9.50). Previews 2 & 3 Aug, £6. (Brian Donaldson)
ground up, which has been a nice process. And I’m sure it’s improved me overall.’
His thoughtful, considered approach couldn’t be more different from fellow Swede Carl-Einar Häckner, a jump-suited buffoon and vaudevillian prop comic with a huge musical and magical repertoire built up over decades entertaining around the world. His reliance on an IKEA theme of collapsing furniture in his show Handluggage might be about as culturally sledgehammer as Cariad Lloyd’s re- imagining of Moominmamma as a hard- bitten Nordic homicide detective. Yet it makes perfect sense. ‘When you perform outside your own country you become aware of how people perceive you and adapt accordingly,’ he says.
Touring the UK as part of the eclectic, frenetic, ‘perform atop a piano’ variety ensemble La Clique, Häckner learned how ‘to make a strong impact in a short amount of time’, his precarious IKEA framework a daft but logical extension for making his chaotic set-pieces and stupid slapstick ‘killer fucking funny’. His shows are ever more portable, with a decreasing number of (but still countless) props, hence his show title. More and more, he’s connecting with his idiosyncratic inner idiot, ‘trying to discover more of me in the English language. I feel like I’m really i nding my voice. With my stories, the complexity of English, because it’s more difi cult it gets more interesting’.
limitations with English Along with his disintegrating guitar and factor collapsing his into ‘the performance process, which can be funny if you build it up to something; it’s one more layer of problems that I have to overcome’. More than Häckner simply being a ‘funny foreigner’, failure is an integral part of his shtick. ‘A little bit of my whole thing is struggling to be understood, even when I speak in Swedish!’ he snorts.
Embracing the challenge of performing outside Sweden was never about conquering the world. He did it to ‘feel the blood in my veins pumping’, which is also why he performs in German. I put it to Simonsen, whose father is Chilean, that he could become a better comedian by learning to perform in his dad’s native doric too. ‘That would be fun actually,’ he muses. ‘My Spanish is really shit.’ Daniel Simonsen, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 4–27 Aug (not 13, 20), 7pm, £8.50–£10 (£7.50–£9). Previews until 3 Aug, £5. Magnus Betnér, Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, 3–26 Aug (not 13, 16), 8.45pm, £10 (£9). Preview 2 Aug, 9.30pm, £9 (£8). Carl-Einar Häckner, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, 4–27 Aug (not 13), 7.30pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50). Previews until 3 Aug, £5. Norwegians of Comedy, GHQ, 226 0000, 4 19 Aug, 1.05pm, free. The Dirty Uncle Comedy Roadshow, The Counting House, 667 7533, 14–17 Aug, 10.45pm, free.