Category Archives: Sweden

Comic Lynn Ruth Miller in Stockholm on why her father disappeared for a year

Incorrigible globe-trotting 85-year-old London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller has just returned from a performance in Stockholm… This is her story…


I flew Scandinavian Airlines to Stockholm and those people REALLY respect the elderly. I was assigned a middle seat and when I got on the plane I asked the senior flight attendant if there was an aisle or a window seat available. She actually kicked a middle-aged woman out of a seat so I could sit on an aisle. That is a real first. Usually the elderly are relegated to the toilet to sit it out until the flight finishes.

When I got to Stockholm, I could not believe how clean the city was – and everyone spoke AMERICAN English, which meant I could understand them – a change from Britain where they all talk like they are trying out for a Noël Coward play.  

Fredag nights are kvinnor nights

Magdalena Bibik-Westerlund, the woman who booked me for the Stockholm show, warned me to dress really warm because it was going to be bitter cold. However, I hail from Ohio where cold means that your breath forms a cloud so dense you cannot see your hand in front of your face and your nose is in danger of falling off if you do not protect it. This cold was comparatively mild, with no wind to intensify it.

My hotel room was very Scandinavian: it was about the size of a disabled toilet but it had everything you could possibly need in it, including a microwave, a refrigerator and a giant bed made for people who are at least 6 feet tall, which they all are in Sweden. I had to stand on a chair to get into it.

Small as the room was, the shower was huge. It was so big I could do a wild erotic dance between the drops of water. Not that I did. But it was comforting to know I COULD if I really wanted to.

The night manager Abraham had lived in Cardiff but, from what I could gather, his wife and two children decided they needed to get away from him and from Cardiff, so they emigrated to Sweden. Abraham refused to be parted from his children and followed them to Stockholm.  

This attitude is totally unlike my own father’s, who could not wait to get the hell out of the house the minute I arrived.

He disappeared within seconds after inhaling the pungent odor of a new baby in the place. 

According to my mother, he wrinkled his nose when he was introduced to me and said: “This kid stinks.” We didn’t see him again for over a year.  

When he did return, he asked: ”Is she toilet trained?” 

My mother, who had put a plug up my you-know-what, said: ”Of course she is. What would you like for dinner?”

Back to Stockholm.

The morning after I arrived, I went down to meet Magdalena, the woman who made it all happen.  

She and her husband, comedian Janne Westerlund, founded the Stockholm Comedy Club. They do several shows a week, but Fridays are their all female shows and they are always a sell out: Female Fridays at the Gröna Lund-teatern where the Beatles, Abba and all the Swedish greats performed.

Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock (sic) – no relation – in Mel Brooks’ film The Producers

Magdalena and I had lots to talk about because she had lived in Bialystok, Poland, until she was seven years old.

My grandparents were from that very city and were such prominent citizens at the time that my grandfather’s name was Joseph Bialystotsky. However, when he arrived at Ellis Island in New York, the immigration officer asked my grandfather to spell his name and, as a result, he walked out of that office as Joseph Miller.

Civil servants cannot spell worth a damn.

That evening in Stockholm was the Big Show and it was very big indeed. There were five of us booked plus the most amazing MC ever.  It was all in Swedish so I have no idea what anyone said, but every woman on that stage brought down the house.

I had been terrified. What if they didn’t understand me? What if they didn’t like me? And this is the worst: What if they did not laugh? 

I walked on that stage feeling like it was the guillotine. But it was not. It was heaven. Everyone clustered around me after I finished and told me I was wonderful (in English of course). All I could think of was: Why didn’t I record this and send it to my first husband so he could see what he missed?

While all of us had been making the ladies (and about five men) in the audience laugh, the elements had been at work swirling around the buildings and trees like whirling dervishes.

When we emerged, it was a winter wonderland. Everything was covered with snow and the wind felt like it was 100 miles an hour. But this is Sweden where men are men and 30 below is balmy.

Magdalena and I had about 75 miles to drive to get to her home in Skebobruk, nestled in the Swedish countryside.  When we got there, I met Janne, her husband and Zumo their magnificent Border Collie/Labrador mix baby.  

It wasn’t until the next day however that I got a glimpse of how beautiful winter can be in the Swedish countryside. All the houses in the little cluster of homes the Westerlunds live in are bright red and they stood out like jewels against the white of the landscape and the tall evergreens  that surround them.

We drove into the village for another one of those Swedish buffets with sufficient food to nourish a refugee camp overlooking a shimmering frozen lake. And then we came home to watch the Swedish Eurovision finals.  

John Lundvik sings Sweden’s 2019 Eurovision song entry

Evidently every single person in all of Sweden watched that show and called in their votes. There were two telephone numbers on the screen: one where you voted for free and one where you added a contribution for charity. That program alone raised thousands for charity and John Lundvik, a former sprinter, won hands down. He will represent his country in Tel Aviv singing the winning number Too Late for Love.

I listened to this young man’s lyrics about the danger of waiting too long for romance and I thought: You do not know what procrastination is, darling. Try waiting 85 years before you start shopping for a bit of nookie. I would have better luck snagging a hippopotamus than I would getting a date on Tinder. And at least a hippo wouldn’t be able to out-run me. 

And there is always the problem of which body part to put on Tinder.

Now I am back in London.

My next stops are Barcelona and Amsterdam.

I do not let the grass grow under my feet, but then I personally have not seen my feet in 20 years.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Filed under Comedy, Sweden

Untold comedy news: Malcolm Hardee links anarchic multi-national mis-prints

I know it is difficult to believe but, occasionally, interesting things happening which never quite make it into my blog.

Phil Zimmerman’s hi-tech bedroom

Comic Phil Zimmerman’s hi-tech bedroom deep in suburbia

After about four years of not being available on the date, I managed last night to go along briefly to one of comedian Phil Zimmerman’s legendary annual parties. It was a cross between a mini-Glastonbury Festival and visiting a post-Apocalyptic version of GCHQ or the NSA, with CCTV all over the place.

During one previous year’s event – in 2011 – an irate neighbour started shooting at participants with an air rifle from a nearby window, causing mass panic in the back garden. When the police arrived, officers apparently spent some considerable time crawling around the garden looking for evidence in the form of pellets

This year, at the door of Phil’s ordinary (sic) suburban house in Ealing, one sign said (including mis-spellings):

Phil Zimmerman’s back garden last night

Phil Zimmerman’s back garden last night had screens & music

SMILE YOUR ON TELLY!

If you can see this sign you’ve been caught on camera & broadcast live on the internet as part of the TIME ON ACID street-interaction noise performance. More info; www.timeonacid.com

A second sign said:

You are also now part of the world’s longest music video which will be entered for the Guiness book of records and Wikipedia – you too are part of history!

I first saw Phil Zimmerman perform at the late Malcolm Hardee’s comedy clubs in, I guess, the 1990s. Phil used to walk across the stage imitating the way that a pigeon walks – with that odd head-jerking movement. As far as I remember, that was pretty much his entire act. It was very enjoyable. Now he runs a monthly comedy club in Faversham and has a series of strange videos on YouTube, including this one:

I caught up with Phil’s annual party this week. but, during this last week, I have NOT shared several things with you.

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith sent me this from Vancouver:

Last night  a woman drove into four policemen who were dining at a window table at the Fatburger restaurant on Denman Street, three blocks from my apartment. I heard the commotion: sirens, traffic being redirected by plainclothes police, police supervisors speeding to the scene, ambulances driving slowly away… It was a good thing Matt Roper or Bob Slayer were not sleeping in the doorway. The police got broken bones… nobody died though.

Anna Smith at Car Crash

Anna Smith at this week’s Canadian car crash in Vancouver

Anna is currently working in a bookstore. So she added:

The CBC TV crews were there at the Fatburger restaurant this morning interviewing the locals. They asked me if I would dare to eat on Denman in the future.  I am writing this on my phone at the bookstore which is very um, no computer, no cash register… the owner told me last week LOOK I have gone high tech… I have Post It notes now !!!

Bob Slayer in Leicester last Friday

Bob Slayer as he likes to be seen – now in Sweden

The aforementioned Bob Slayer was also sending me text messages and e-mails this week. He is performing in Sweden and it is worth remembering that he became a comedian because, he says, he read the late Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

Here are some of Bob’s messages to me this week (including Swedish mis-spelling):

Tonight in Linköping, I have been billed as SON OF MALCOLM HARDER, THE FAMOUS BALLOON DANCER… by a man who was once The Honey Monster. He should know better.

There is a lady here who was once X-rayed by my mum. Crikey!

Last night’s near death experience involved accidentally cycling onto a Swedish motorway on an old bone shaker of a bike with no lights. Turning back looked fraught so I hopped over the barrier and crossed some wasteland onto another road which unfortunately turned out to be a slip road for a busier bit of motorway flyover. Only one thing for it, push on!

Bob Slayer’s great chocolate find in Sweden

Bob Slayer’s great chocolate find in Sweden

I eventually escaped down an unfinished slip road by climbing down a scaffolding tower (with the bike on my back) into a bus yard. The twenty minutes cycle home became a 2 hour adventure! I’m now in Linköping waiting for more adventures to happen…

I know you like chocolate, so here is the big discovery of my cultural mission to Sweden. (See picture)

Bob Slayer is a past winner of the highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

This week I noticed a new Twitter account in the name of Oliver Moore who bills himself as:

Comedy with a smile. 5 times Malcolm Hardee Award nominee. Yet to win.

As far as I know, Oliver Moore is an entirely fictitious stand-up comedian.

Totally untrue but slightly admirable aspiring comedy bullshit

Totally untrue but slightly admirable aspiring comedy bullshit

So I can only assume this Twitter account is some early-started attempt to win next year’s highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe.

A reminder here that (real) comedian Gill Smith inspired the Cunning Stunt Award when she e-mailed me to say the purpose of her e-mail was to nominate herself for the Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that, by doing so, she could legitimately put on her posters MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE because she had nominated herself. She added that she thought the late, great Malcolm would have approved.

I agreed that he would and we decided to give Gill the first Cunning Stunt Award on the basis that, if she did not give her an award, she would only give herself an award anyway but we would not get as much publicity.

Life is strange.

Which is good.

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Filed under Africa, Anarchy, Canada, Comedy, Phil Zimmerman, Sweden, UK

Odd news of enemas, buckets & Bitcoins from Germany, Sweden and Canada

BERLIN, GERMANY

Cabaret performer Matt Roper in Berlin - the home of Cabaret

Cabaret performer Matt Roper in Berlin – the home of Cabaret

Comedian Matt Roper has been forced to sleep in a doorway holding music legend Morrissey in his hands.

Matt is currently staying in a flat in Berlin which belongs to a musician friend of his who is on tour.

As there was a spare room, Matt had asked me if I wanted to stay there too.

It sounds like I was lucky I did not go. I got an e-mail:

“When I arrived here,” Matt told me, “I collected the keys from the neighbours, threw my bags into the hallway, then went out for the night to explore. I was kidnapped by two journalists from the Bild newspaper (the German equivalent of the Sun) who took me to various bars, ending up in a place where an exotic dancer performing onstage finished her act by sitting on a large bottle of Becks beer and opened it by bending over.

“When I got back to the flat at 2.40am, I realised I had been given the wrong set of keys. Well, the keys to the flat were fine, but I had not got one to the main door from the street. I had to spend the night in the doorway until somebody from the building left for work in the morning at 6.45am. I had trouble convincing him I was legitimately staying there. I do not speak much German and, in the intervening four hours, I had been sipping beer from a bottle and reading Morrissey’s autobiography so, by this point, was looking quite dishevelled.

“The next day,” Matt told me, “my card was cloned by some bastard in India who has plundered my current account of all its funds. And now I can smell gas coming from the flat below.”

“Well, gas and Germany tend to go together,” I told Matt when I Skyped him yesterday.

“The neighbours just said to ignore it and it has gone away,” he confirmed, then continued: “Listen. There’s an enema spa in Thailand I know very well. We should go one day next year. After the Edinburgh Fringe. Next September. You fast for ten days straight and take silium husk. I met Hermann Goering‘s niece there. You can have ten days of blogging with interesting characters talking about what they’ve passed that morning into a sieve. How can you resist?”

I told Matt I had put enemas behind me and was not interested.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

Bob Slayer (right) met a man with drink in Sweden

When baldies collide: Bob Slayer (right) met a man on a bus

Shortly after talking to Matt Roper, I got an e-mail from comedian Bob Slayer.

“Yesterday,” it started, “I found an artificial leg in a park in Stockholm… There were signs of a struggle and half a broken step ladder. What can this all mean?”

I could not help Bob with any sensible explanation.

“This morning,” the e-mail coninued, “I was woken up in a closed shopping centre (also in Stockholm) by a security guard called Linus. Neither of us knew how I had got into the closed shopping centre and he complimented me on my sleeping place but – sadly – he told me that he had not seen my artificial leg… So that is now lost again.

“It would be lovely if you could blog about my new book Bob Slayer: The Happy Drunk. I have written it and Rich Rose has illustrated it. The pre-order via Kickstarter closes on Sunday.” (This means tomorrow to rapid readers of this blog.)

Bob’s Kickstarter target was £666 and, at the time of writing, he has raised £1,008, so I think it is likely the book may well appear.

Later, I got another message from Bob.

“I get a ferry to Aland for a gig,” it started. “Aland is an island between Sweden and Finland which is Finnish but they speak Swedish. The two countries argued over it for years and sorted things out with a treaty that made Swedish the main language and gave the island a high degree of autonomy. The first thing they did was get rid of all tax on booze. I love this place. It is a schizophrenic island full of piss heads…

“I have been to Aland several times before with bands. My gig is promoted by a man called Grulle. When I was managing the Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock, we once took Grulle to the Hultsfred Festival. When we picked him up, all he was carrying was a bucket. It turned out to be his portable toilet complete with a seat. Grulle spent some very happy moments with his potty in the woods that weekend.”

Even later yesterday, I got a text message on my phone from Bob who, bizarrely, is a former racehorse jockey.

“I have met an old man called Björn on the bus to the ferry,” the text said. “He was a race horse trainer but, more importantly, he has wine and vodka. An important feature is that the booze is in bottles of vitamin water.”

I have heard nothing from Bob since.

VANCOUVER, CANADA

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith has some fishy yet true stories

When I told Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – that Bob Slayer was in Stockholm, she unexpectedly suggested I should immediately tell him that Sweden now allows public masturbation.

Sure enough, Time magazine and the UK’s Independent newspaper have both reported that a 65-year-old Swedish man was acquitted of sexual assault after “pleasuring himself” on a beach in Stockholm in June.

The district court of Södertörn tossed out the charge on the grounds that he did not look at anybody while fondling himself. Public prosecutor Olof Vrethammar told the Mitti newspaper that he had no plans to appeal and called the ruling “reasonable.” When asked if masturbating in public was now acceptable in Sweden, Vrethammar said public fondling was “okay” – as long as it was not directed towards a specific individual.”

Anna Smith lives in Vancouver, where the world’s first Bitcoin machine has now been installed in a branch of Waves coffee shop. Anna tells me:

“The coffee shop is opposite the British Columbia Supreme Court. I wonder if it will come in handy for criminals who are about to be sentenced to lengthy terms or ones who have just won their cases and need to convert currency or pay off people. I have noticed that men about to be incarcerated sometimes have absurd amounts of cash in their motel rooms.”

Anna has other things on her mind, too:

“I have started part time work in a used book store,” she tells me. “The place is always good for a laugh. The owners grumble about business, customers come in to rant and the elderly men are funny, trying to outdo one another with anecdotes. One elderly Indian man was crowing from the top of a ladder: I was there when Khrushchev stepped off the train in Bombay!  to which another geezer, who is blind and too unsteady to climb ladders but sings filthy doggerel, replied: My mother was an Irish nurse who marched with Mao across China!

Respected Italian politician La Cicciolina

The respected Italian politician La Cicciolina

“Directly opposite the bookstore is the Marble Arch Hotel, full of mentally-ill drug addicts, who used to fire projectiles at the store windows from their rooms. Fortunately, the City of Vancouver is renovating the hotel, so the whole building is enveloped in scaffolding and blue nets, making it temporarily impossible to shoot ball bearings. In better days, the hotel had a striptease club which featured such famous performers as La Cicciolina, the popular Hungarian-born Italian politician.

“I recently went to a Celebration of Life for Fijian princess and actress Freda Perry, which was held at a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A banquet including extremely delicious curried lamb was served, Fijians sang prayers and there was a Kava ceremony, though I missed that bit.

“When I saw the Kava bowl I thought it was holy water, so I steered clear and was a little surprised when I saw a man scoop a mug of liquid out and drink it. Fijians are obviously a superior culture as their holy water is drinkable, and mildly intoxicating, whereas our European holy water functions mainly as a transmitter of influenza.

“Big news at the moment, though, is that Vancouver Police are being run ragged in their hunt for rogue dentists who are operating with impunity in secretive subterranean clinics.”

Sure enough, a piece in yesterday’s Globe and Mail newspaper reports that “British Columbia’s College of Dental Surgeons says there’s still no sign of rogue dentist David Wu, though it is proceeding with legal action against two other unlicensed practitioners and investigating even more… Illegal dental clinics tend to be underground and secretive, which the college has said makes them difficult to shut down.”

Vancouver continues to be high on my list of interesting places to be, although Matt Roper continues in his (frankly doomed) attempts to persuade me of the attractions of enema spas in Thailand.

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Germany, Humor, Humour, Sweden

News of Edinburgh Fringe sexual organ props & the World Fart Championships

Martin Soan, an older man, but stylish in his Nigel Hall socks

Martin Soan (right) chats on Lewis Schaffer’s radio show

“I thought I was going to get away without building a sexual organ prop this year,” Martin Soan told me yesterday. “But the first order for a cock has come in today. It’s for a comedian going up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Your FIRST order?” I asked. “How many do you normally get?”

“I usually get about two a year,” Martin told me.

As attentive readers of this blog will know, Martin was asked in May to perform the part of a vagina in a play. He is famed for The Naked Balloon Dance he created for the Greatest Show on Legs.

“What happened to your vagina part in the play?” I asked him this morning.

“The woman sent me the script, I read it and I politely told her I was not an actor.”

Martin was once asked to build a prop for a comedian which, he said, was an “all-singing-and-dancing talking vagina. I used silk. It had hair and eyes. It was really scary.”

He may not be an actor in the traditional sense, but he walks an ever-moving dividing line between being a comedian and a performance artist, a prop maker and a creator of stage fantasies.

mrmethanebends

Mr Methane flying off to fart in Finland

And, talking of unlikely career paths and fantasies, we have the case of my chum Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter who is attending the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. They are being held this Saturday.

He flies off at noon today, but may arrive in Finland earlier than scheduled if there is a following wind.

“I’m surprised they’re having championships,” I said to him yesterday. “Surely it’s a talent rather than a sport?”

“I would say it could be both,” he told me. “It’s a sport in terms of my kind of farting – petomania – because performing a full show like mine is quite strenuous and it requires one to be farting fit. I think the talent is being able to control one’s emission.”

“That is always a bonus when in polite society,” I suggested.

“Sometimes,” said Mr Methane, “when I am introduced as a professional farter, the ladies do not fully take into consideration the fact that a pro can control his emissions. That is a positive over your average male, surely?”

“I certainly consider it thus,” I said. “But do foreigners really understand the joke? Indeed, is it a joke?”

“I am the man,” said Mr Methane, “who apparently blew the doors of censorship wide open for Swedish TV after my 1991 appearance on Robert Aschberg’s TV3 show.”

Mr Methane performed in front of guests including the country’s Foreign Minister.

“Things were apparently never the same again,” Mr Methane told me yesterday. “Or so I found out when I was invited as a guest on a Swedish style This Is Your Life TV show for Robert. The show’s producer wrote to Barrie, my manager:

When Mr. Methane visited Robert’s show Ikväll in the early 1990s he stunned a whole country. Some was amused and some were appalled by Mr. Methane’s talent however – it was television history. None in Sweden had before seen this kind of a show. Robert’s show was a predecessor and Mr Methane was the one guest that made it happen.

“When Martin Soan and Malcolm Hardee and the Greatest Show on Legs took The Naked Balloon Dance to Sweden in the early 1980s,” I said. “it was very popular there, but Malcolm told me he didn’t think the Swedes actually understood why it was funny.”

“I think Malcolm is partially correct but not entirely,” said Mr Methane. “If you watch the clip of Robert Aschberg crying with laughter and tears running down his face as I perform, it’s hard to believe that Swedes have no sense of humour. I think they tend to conduct themselves in a reserved fashion and this gives off that impression.

“Robert’s mate Gert Fylking, who held the microphone, could give the Greatest Show On Legs a run for their money. He was mental and did some really crazy things. But, then, he did attend a boarding school in Uttoxeter… His parents felt that an English education would be good for him and it obviously paid dividends.”

“Crazy things?” I asked.

“He had an enema-shitting contest,” said Mr Methane, “but his real party piece is jumping up and down on one leg, naked, until his cock spins round like a propeller. Both were performed on TV3 after they’d tested the limits with my act. He is a Christian Democrat politician now.”

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

“I used to work for TV3 in the UK,” I said. “It is a fine TV company. I think they screened Little House on The Prairie undubbed. Do you think any one nation more attuned to the true appreciation of your farts?”

“I guess my show is best received in Australia,” mused Mr Methane, “though some Australians are touchy about it because they feel that the world sees them as crude and rude when they are, in fact, a highly cultured nation.

“My 1997 appearance on the Channel 9 Footy Show apparently holds the record for the most complaints about an Australian TV show. People were calling in to complain from remote places out in the bush that weren’t even meant to get Channel 9’s signal. The switchboard apparently melted. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

The Footy Show panel turned to rubble, the studio audience was a mix of Animal House delight and gob smacked incredulity and the phones ran hotter than a Kate Fischer calendar.

“So what are you doing at the World Fart Championship in Finland?” I asked.

“At 47,” said Mr Methane, I’m past my competitive age, so I’m there as a The Godfather of Flatulence – an inspiration to those who follow in my footsteps – or wherever – A bit like you get the retired footballers on Match of the Day.

Johann Strauss was a fine Austrian composer

Johann Strauss II was a fine composer

“I will be doing a fully-blown show there, but I will be pacing myself. I will be going at my own speed, not sprinting to a finishing line in the shortest time and I will be accompanied by the Utajärvi Brass Band in a special rendition of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. I see my show as a mature wine that should be savoured and not rushed so one can experience the true aroma.”

“How can they judge farts at the Championships?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” admitted Mr Methane. “You could have The Longest, The Shortest, The Fattest, The Thinest… Hang on, this is beginning to sound like the theme tune to Record Breakers.”

“Whither farting contests?” I asked.

“I think it is an event that could run and run,” said Mr Methane.

“Any helpful advice for actual contestants?”

“Relax… But not too much.”

“And after your visit to Finland?”

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

“As you know,” said Mr Methane, “ I am appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, with My Life In Farting at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue at 3.30 every afternoon,  13th – 17th August… Ring-side seats are still available.”

“And you are staying in my Edinburgh flat for that week?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mr Methane.

“Oh dear,” I said.

As I was about to post this blog, I got a mobile phone text from Mr Methane. It read:

“I’m hearing reports of a fart on The Archers. Not sure if true but, if so, you’d think they would have brought me in to do it. We both missed some publicity there.”

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Filed under Comedy, Finland, Humor, Humour, Sweden, Theatre, UK

Comedian Paul B.Edwards on the UK’s crisis in comedy and The Helsinki Bus Station Theory of how to build a career

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Tomorrow, Paul B.Edwards’ Last Minute Comedy Club in Hitchin celebrates its 20th anniversary. He also runs comedy clubs in Letchworth, Luton and Baldock.

“People have been complaining about a ‘crisis’ in comedy,” I said to him yesterday, “with people not going to live clubs.”

“Well, my clubs are part of a huge squeezed middle,” he told me. “People at the very top are doing very well with their tours on the back of TV appearances. Michael McIntyre made more money than the Rolling Stones last year touring. But TV is making famous other people who aren’t ready.

“If people go and see ‘the funniest bloke they’ve ever seen on the telly’ live in a theatre and he actually isn’t very funny and he’s ‘the funniest person’ they’ve ever seen, what is the point of them going to a comedy club where they’ve never heard of anybody? It’s stopped new people coming to see live stand-up comedy.

“My single biggest problem is the falling number of people under the age of 30. Audiences are getting older, certainly in the sort of provincial clubs I’ve got.

“The comedy circuits are diverging. There’s a whole young Daniel Sloss audience who have never heard of Ian Cognito and vice versa. You’ve got kids going to see shows performed by kids. And adults seeing shows with adults in. And party types going to see Jongleurs-style shows. And people who really believe in stand-up comedy going to see shows in rooms in the back of pubs, like it always was and is supposed to be.

“You have five or six diverging circuits and very few people can work on all of them, which means all of our audiences have gone down as the number of clubs has expanded. There are more and more clubs around, but there are less and less people suitable for each type of club.

“Add to that an economic recession when existing audiences have tightened their belts and, instead of coming once-a-month or once-a-week, they come once-every-other-month or once-a-fortnight… You’ve halved the audience straight away and you’re not getting new people.

“It used to be that, when I got an article in the local Hitchin Comet newspaper, I would get 30 extra people at my club. Now it make no difference whatsoever unless the photograph is of someone people have seen on the telly.”

“So you have been affected by the economic recession?” I asked.

“My Hitchin show halved in numbers,” said Paul, “but I didn’t really know why. The audiences had always been great to the point they’d queue out into the car park to get in. Suddenly it was down to just over 100 people and I didn’t know why.”

“Did this happen in 2008 with the economic recession?” I asked.

“It took a little while to drop – maybe 2009,” replied Paul. “But now, to the current recession, you have to add the ‘Michael McIntyre’ effect, the big arena tours, the TV panel game effect. I think any one of those the comedy circuit would have survived but the fact they all happened at the same time halved audiences. Clubs shut. Anyone who says they didn’t suffer or aren’t suffering is a fucking liar.

“Every time one audience member doesn’t go to a comedy club, they may save themselves £10 but, collectively, if 100 people save themselves £10, the club loses £1,000.

“I didn’t know what to do until Peppa Pig showed up.”

“Peppa Pig?” I asked.

No, no… Not that Peppa Pig

No… Not that Peppa Pig… The one with a computer database

“Peppa Pig is this girl who came to my show in Letchworth. The audience there used to be 120; but it had dropped to 80. That was alright. I figured it was a newer club and a smaller drop – though still a 33% drop.

“At all my clubs, I always go down to the the pub afterwards with the audience – from the minute they get to the gig, I’m their mate as well as their host. She came up to me afterwards and we got talking. Peppa Pig said: Is there anything I can do to help? I market local events for people putting things on. At the weekend, she gets dressed up as Peppa Pig and goes round children’s parties. She works in schools, all sorts of things.

“I asked What do you want? She said: I don’t want anything at all. I want the club to keep going and I can help.

“I had no idea what she could do to help. But she has a database that I’ve never heard of and they’ve never heard of me – namely young parents… Young people who had not been to my comedy clubs, who don’t get out very often but who plan a babysitter for once a month and go out. She told them: Come to comedy.

“Overnight, Letchworth was sold out, Hitchin was selling out… This was in January.”

“Last year?” I asked.

“This year,” Paul said. “It’s only just happened. The numbers had dropped virtually overnight. Now they recovered virtually overnight – simply by someone reaching a group of people I couldn’t reach. Full houses. Paul’s happy again.”

And now Paul has expanded into Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Paul’s Oslo Comedy Club

Paul has been expanding into Scandinavia

He has opened comedy clubs in OsloGothenburg and, as of next month, Copenhagen.

“I take two comics out there,” Paul told me yesterday. “It’s 100% English-speaking-as-a-first-language at the moment, but that may change as there are quite a lot of local comics who want to do comedy in English. At the moment, there’s quite an exciting comedy scene in Oslo of people who can’t get booked because the main club there has made themselves a sort-of closed shop. So there’s all these new comics coming through who have hit a glass ceiling and have nowhere to play.”

“Much the same thing happened in Scotland,” I said. “But making a career out of comedy has never been easy.”

“Do you know the Helsinki Bus Station Theory?” Paul asked me.

“No,” I said, mystified.

“If you want a successful creative career,” explained Paul, “you have to understand the timetabling and bus routes of Helsinki Bus Station.

“Helsinki Bus Station has about 25 or 26 different routes going to 25 or 26 different destinations, but there’s only one road into Helsinki Bus Station and only one road out. For the first kilometre, all the buses are on the same road.

“When you first start off, you start off thinking you’re having creatively original ideas, but you’re not having creatively original ideas because you don’t realise everyone’s having the same ideas as you. If you look out of the window, there are 25 other buses going along exactly the same road.

“But, after one kilometre, the buses start to move off in different directions. The the only way you can have a successful career is to Stay on the fucking bus. The longer you stay on the bus, the more likely you are to eventually reach that unique place that only you are going to.

“Other people are getting off the bus too early until, eventually, there’s only you and the driver.

Stay on the fucking bus – That’s the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

“As a stand-up comic, I’m not famous yet and I may never be famous, but I’m staying on the fucking bus.”

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Filed under Comedy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden