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'Swedish crowds are too polite': Stockholm comic

'Swedish crowds are too polite': Stockholm comic

Published: 24 Oct 2012 14:04 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Oct 2012 14:04 GMT+02:00

A new weekly stand-up comedy competition has hit Stockholm where audience members vote for their favourite comics. The Local chats to comedian Eric Bamberg about the show, the contestants, and why Swedish crowds should heckle more often.

Organizers of "Ha Ha Stockholm" Erik Bamberg and Yemi Afolabi are from Toronto and New York respectively, two cities where the stand-up scene is “much more developed” than in Sweden, according to Bamberg.

After the first few weeks of their competition yielded good turnouts and a great level of comics, they are keen to continue pushing the Stockholm comedy scene with a concept that’s proved popular abroad but, according to them, has never been tried in the Swedish capital.

The Local found out more.

So what exactly is the show?

Erik Bamberg:The idea for Haha Stockholm is a comedy show with comedians competing against each other and the audience voting for which comics go through. Competitions like this are common in North America and in the UK, but it hasn’t been done around here yet. It’s really good concept for a show.

How does it work?

EB: Anyone can come and participate. Some of the people who have signed up are people who are completely new to stand-up, some people have been doing it for a while but are not yet pros. It's a really beautiful mix of people, the youngest contestant so far is 16 years old and the oldest is 82!

How did the idea for the show come about and why are you doing it?

EB:We're both comics who have been living and working in cities where comedy is everywhere: New York and Toronto. As a comedian, you can perform several times a night there, whereas in Sweden the scene is much smaller.

The scene has gotten bigger and better here over the years though. But you have to remember that stand-up is still pretty young in Stockholm - the scene is only really two decades old.

With this competition we wanted to start something new on the Stockholm comedy scene. If there had been a competition like this before we would have probably been in it, but there wasn’t, so we just decided to just start one ourselves.

How do you find Swedes react to comedy?

EB:The crowds are great. In general, people are very interested and give the performers their attention. That's actually also one of the drawbacks: the crowds are actually almost too polite. I don't think one of us has ever really been heckled in Sweden.

As weird as it might sound, I think crowds in Sweden should heckle comedians way more. Heckling, at certain points, isn't bad for comics. Knowing that it might happen makes you stay alert and ready.

What does the winner get besides 5,000 kronor ($750)?

EB:It's going to be a great thing to put on your comedy resumé, you can say to bookers and others that "Hey, I won this thing". The winner also gets everlasting glory and a chance to meet Fredrik Reinfeldt (not the prime minister, but we met a guy who was also named Fredrik Reinfeldt and he agreed to say hello to the winner).

The competition takes place every Wednesday at 8pm at the Skål bar in Hornstull. Acts in both Swedish and English. Entry costs 60 kronor.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

21:41 October 24, 2012 by dizzymoe33
Fly me to Sweden and I will sit there in the audience and heckle for you-no problem!!
01:15 October 25, 2012 by Hisingen
Stand-up comedy in Sweden is pretty poor stuff, and hardly worth heckling, other than to get the 'comedian' off the stage.
10:27 October 25, 2012 by StockholmSam
As one who has done a bit of stand-up, I can say that hecklers are not a welcome part of the formula. Instead, they are a factor that needs to be considered, but certainly not encouraged. The audience is there to be entertained by a skillfully wrought performance. When hecklers hijack the performance and take the performer out of his or her space, they destroy the moment for everyone. True, comedians must prepare for hecklers, but it takes great skill and mental fortitude to think on your feet while on stage and trying to make people laugh. And it should be noted that hecklers are usually quite drunk to the point of aggression. Nobody should encourage that, least of all these jokers who are in the article.

And Hisingen beat me to it. The quality of Swedish stand-up is too poor to elicit much of an emotional response. Besides, hecklers usually respond to humor built on controversial subjects, which you do not see much around here. I remember a Jewish friend doing some stand-up and his routine was about Israel and Arabs. He was the only jew there and the audience (in Stockholm) was filled with Arabs. Man, it was brutal. Some of his skit was pretty funny, but not from the perspective of the audience. Nobody laughed and he got boo'd off the stage. Those are the topics that get hecklers shouting. He decided to avoid the political humor after that.
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