Welcome to my first blog entry hope you enjoy it. (LETS GO IN ON THE STAND-UP SCNE IN STHLM.)
I´m an ex-pat stand-up comic who has been living/performing in Sweden for the last two years. I hail from New York and started stand-up in NY back in 2008 then moved to L.A. I moved to Sweden because my fiancé lives here and also found it was a great country to have kids, study and afforded all of its citizens basic human rights, values and high-living standards. (Seriously after you read this google “living like a Swede” this country has great social benefits.) Hooray socialism!
While living in L.A. I was working in a Hostel living a party lifestyle , needless to say my career was not “serious” by any means. However, what the L.A. scene did allow me was consistent stage-time and a somewhat clear comedy hierarchy. I did sh#t open-mics, a couple of competitions, invited spots, opening spots, hosted, talent showcase, imrpov-sketch festivals, never got passed anywhere tho. Getting passed at the Comedy Store is a testament to one who truly is funny! New York was the comedy kumite for me, going up every night was a battle to see who was funniest, who had the best premises, act outs, writing, all tight 5 minute sets. “I gotta step my game up” became my mantra. New York is where comedy lives and is SUPER competitive. I could literally go up 5 times a night every night. The comics who live there worked the nightly scene, which prompted me to follow suite. The company you keep, keeps your comedy crisp! Needless to say watching and performing alongside better comics, made me better or at least gauged where I was on a comedic level.
THE STHLM SCENE…
Alas, moving to a new country came with some typical adversities. Not the language as you´d expect tho, everybody speaks English, fluently! I had to dig my heels into the comedy concrete as it were and start anew. Gain new contacts, make friends, find work, etc. 2 years in, I´ve been keeping busy, producing shows , hosting, touring, keeping the dream alive, I’m ok or as Swedes say “lagom”. I feel the stand-up scene is dying and is in major need of resuscitation due to lack of shows, no camaraderie, no hang out spots or mics where comics can network with each other. I just feel this ominous lack of interest by society in stand-up because it is still relatively new here as an art form. Tragedy plus time equals comedy and frankly there isn´t much tragedy here. People are looked after, basic human rights- education, healthcare, social welfare, the kicker…Swedes get 4- 5 weeks vacation! “U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.?” You know what people complain about here… the weather, the most mundane subject on this planet, “its cold, it rains, it shines, repeat.
Can comedy co-exist in a harmonious productive society, absolutely, but it does make the hungry starving artist paradigm sparse. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does dull the scene down because everyone is comfortable where they are and nobody takes risks on stage. I have yet to meet a “struggling artist” I meet rookies who view it as a hobby and posers, but no comic who’s in an abusive relationship because they need support allowance to pursue their dream, no homeless dude that just hangs out at mics just so they can go up last, no dude living in a truck because he can’t afford rent. There are comics out here who put the work in, they’re the more established acts who has surpassed open-mic level. Onstage I feel like I’m constantly shadowboxing myself, no sparring partner. How do I gauge my level? who’s the Ryu to my Ken, the Sasuke to my Naruto, the Mario to my Bowser? Not having a arch nemesis is boring! I try to keep motivated by the options available, a couple of shows/mics, couple of booked spots, a festival in Lund, but I constantly find myself flying outside the country for comedic inspiration. London, Scotland, Denmark, hell, even Estonia has a great scene led by the dude Louis Zezeran. Seriously Sthlm wtf?
I write this not out of hate but concern because I live here now and my dream is to be a a working comedian. Mårten Anderson´s RAW recently goy the AXE and it was the best club in Sthlm with a great venue, marketing and digital media platform for comedians hands down despite the controversy surrounding the club. I get it tho, the bubbles burst, you’ve milked the cow betsy bone dry and like Jay-Z, its on to the next one. It´s useless poking a dead horse so why poke a dead cow, (thats just cruel). It takes a keen business savvy to know when its time throw in the towel. This news unsettles me. If this dude is calling it quits after putting in 10 YEARS of starting up a stand-up brand, gaining notoriety and making revenue, what does that signify to the rest of us who want to make in the comedy business? After the money is dried up, thats it? Stand-up comedy is not worth producing if theres too much overhead?
I´m still broke, and want to do stand-up in Sweden but can´t afford to quit my day job. So whats the best “paid” comedy club now? Is Norra Brun the top club again to go up, be seen and get exposure? Before you start shouting answers at the screen, there is no answer, simply because the comedy culture here doesn’t want one. Top comics will make due, clubs/companies will book who they want, and one-man shows will continue to exist. I figure this, Stand-up in Sweden is not going to make you money, unless you have a one-man show that is constantly sold-out, get company gigs every week or have a huge new sitcom. Unlike the music scene here (which is great btw) the stand-up scene is lame. I agree when I hear Swedes say “swedish comedy sucks” because it does. The only reason why the music scene is better, is solely because SWEDES love music and invests in it. Can the same thing be said about the gatekeepers who make money of the backs of funny people? Ok I’ll level with you, why is it that paid entry gig places with packed audiences, no-one is paid?
I call on you comedy crusader! Its up to us, the comics to get up and unite. (Sounds corny, I know but thats the only way to start a revolution.) Start a mic, podcast, write a script, shoot a webisode, throw a networking party, anything that will add to the culture. “BUT YEMI I´M ALREADY DOING THAT”, GOOD THEN, I´m obviously not talking TO YOU! I live here now and I know the scene here will never be what I left but I´ll be damned if I don’t even try to make it something where I can sustain my dream. Even if its through a blog that nobody reads, a podcasts with no listeners, a joke that fails, I love comedy to the death of me and I´ll be damned to let my dream die because of location proximity or LAGOM!